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Fraser: Jackets-Blackhawks faceoff call true to rule book

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Kerry Fraser
4/7/2014 2:32:31 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.

Hi Kerry:

I was watching the Hawks-Blue Jackets game on Friday night - the game in which the Hawks scored with less than four seconds remaining to claim victory. My question concerns the face-off for that game-winning goal.

Let me describe what I saw the previous play. With less than thirty seconds remaining, the puck was shot on the ice in front of the Jackets' bench. Two Jacket players jumped on to the ice while two others went to the bench. The puck went just inside the Jackets' zone where a Jacket defender got the puck with just over 20 seconds left. A linesman whistled down the play indicating that the Jackets had too many men on the ice and there would be a penalty with a faceoff deep in their end.

As it turned out, the two referees counted the players on the ice and determined there were not too many players and NO penalty would be assigned. The face-off was still held deep in Jacket territory. The Hawks took control from the face-off and scored.

My question to you is should not that face-off been held outside the Jackets blue line or at centre because the linesman blew down the play incorrectly? Since the Jackets had control of the puck when the "too many men" whistle blew, it seems to me unfair they should be penalized with the deep faceoff. I'm sure the Leafs, Flyers and Devils agree with the call; however, I didn't and I am a Hawks fan. Could you please give me your take on this as I am sure it cost the Blue Jackets a very important point or two.

Thanks, Doug MacLean

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Hi Doug:

I have little doubt that the former Blue Jackets GM with the same name as yours would have been waiting near the officials' dressing room looking for some clarification on this play as well if he still occupied that position. The linesman clearly made an error in judgment when he determined the Blue Jackets were in violation of rule 74 - too many men on the ice - with 21.6 seconds remaining in regulation. Even though play was stopped through an official's error the face-off location in this case is determined by where the puck was last played under rule 76.2. “When the game is stopped for any reason not specifically covered in the official rules, the puck must be faced-off at a face-off spot in the zone nearest to where it was last played.”

Defenceman Jack Johnson had the puck on his stick a couple of feet inside the Blue Jackets end zone when the linesman blew his whistle to stop play. As per rule 76.2 the face-off had to be conducted on the nearest end-zone face-off dot of the Blue Jackets. The only provision within the rules to relocate a face-off in the neutral zone following a linesman's error is contained in rule 81.2 - If the linesman shall have erred in calling an “icing the puck” infraction (regardless of whether either team is short-handed), the puck shall be faced-off on the center face-off dot.

It is most unfortunate for the Blue Jackets that the whistle was not blown by the linesman when Jack Johnson first touched the puck when it rested on the blue line and prior to entering the defending zone. Had that been the case, the ensuing faceoff would have taken place on the neutral zone face-off dot.

It might be unfair, Doug, that the Blue Jackets lost so much territorial advantage following the linesman's error but there was no option to locate the face-off in the neutral zone on this play. While the Blue Jackets did have some opportunities to get the puck out of their end zone following the face-off with 21.6 seconds remaining, I acknowledge it was a tough way for a team to lose such an important game.

Blackhawks celebrate (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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