NHL

Fraser: Refs protocol for postponing a hockey game

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Kerry Fraser
3/11/2014 3:24:02 PM
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Got a question on rule clarification, comments on rule enforcements or some memorable NHL stories? Kerry wants to answer your emails at cmonref@tsn.ca.

Kerry,
 
Love reading your columns every day.
 
I wanted to ask you about Monday's incident in Dallas, where Rich Peverley collapsed on the bench and the game was eventually postponed. What's the protocol from the ref's perspective when a game gets postponed? Does he make that call on the ice or does he have to call the NHL front office? Have you ever experienced something similar to Monday's incident in your reffing career?
 
Thanks,
Dave Vieira
Milton, ON

Dave:

We must continue to offer prayers for Rich Peverley, his family, teammates, the Dallas Stars management and his fans throughout the hockey world. When a tragedy like this occurs it certainly transcends the game and causes us to reflect on what is most important in life; namely our health and that of our family.

In many dealings I had with Rich Peverley on the ice, I know him to be an exceptional young man beyond just his obvious talent as a player. We need look no further than the reaction (and swift action) demonstrated by the Dallas Stars players and coaching staff last night to recognize what an important member of their extended family Rich Peverley truly is! Coach Lindy Ruff, while visibly shaken, addressed the media and commended the outstanding response provided by the medical team; without their efforts his remarks, admittedly might have been much more somber.

Quick medical response similar to that mentioned by Lindy Ruff last night in Dallas has also been credited with averting potential tragedies involving Jiri Fischer (cardiac arrest), in addition to Richard Zednik and Clint Malarchuk (both of which suffered a potentially fatal throat slash from a skate during separate games in Buffalo). The unsung heroes from the medical staffs throughout the entire National Hockey League deserve our utmost respect, appreciation and admiration.

The referee's expected protocol that you enquired about, Dave, is to first kill the play immediately whenever a serious injury/incident is witnessed or, as was the case last night, he is made aware of one taking place. If an official is the first responder to an on-ice injury he should remain calm and attempt to provide comfort and assistance to the injured player until the medical team arrives and then get out of the way.

The decision to suspend a game is exclusively entrusted to Commissioner Gary Bettman and/or through his designate, Executive Vice President and Director of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell. Since every minute of every game is monitored in the Situation Room in Toronto, all hands would have been on deck once the game was stopped in Dallas and it became apparent that Rich Peverley was in distress. Telephone conversations from team personnel and the officiating crew would have been initiated as soon as possible to provide eyes on the scene and continually update the Commissioner and Colin Campbell with information as it became available. The game officials have a telephone in their dressing room that can connect with the Situation Room in Toronto. The primary information on the player's status would come via Dallas Stars General Manager Jim Nill and Blue Jackets President John Davidson who were on the scene.

The first and most obvious concern would be for the health and well-being of the athlete. All energy and assets went in that direction last night. Once it was learned that Rich Peverley had regained consciousness, was aware of his surroundings and even alert to the point that he wanted to know how much time was remaining in the period, a huge sigh of relief was felt by everyone. With Rich Peverley stabilized and being transported to the hospital, the decision then had to be made as to whether the game should continue. For that to happen, the impact of this incident on the players from both teams would have to be evaluated and considered.

Both coaches would have been consulted as to the emotional status of their players after witnessing this shocking and disturbing incident. The Commissioner and Colin Campbell did what was in the best interest of everyone involved; the players, coaches, and the fans in the building and those watching on television when they made the decision to postpone the game.

Even though I witnessed many injured players carried from the ice on a stretcher during my officiating career, I count myself fortunate not to have experienced, first-hand, a potentially life threatening incident like we saw last night in Dallas or the others I mentioned. I felt physically ill just watching the incident last night on television and can't imagine the emotion one would experience at ice level.

I am sure everyone will join me in offering best wishes for a full and speedy recovery to Rich Peverley and to his family.

Rich Peverley (Photo: Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
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