Got a question on rule clarification, comments on rule enforcements or some memorable NHL stories? Kerry wants to answer your emails at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Good morning Kerry,
I love your daily clarifications to help everyone understand better why some calls are made!
My question is in regards of spearing. As you know by now, Milan Lucic speared Alexei Emelin in Game 3 - again! I understand that at times some calls be overlooked, but why is he continuously getting away with it? If there is video evidence, why nothing is done afterward to avoid any precedence to be set? My last question: is this not making the officials in a difficult position?
Thank you very much for your time.
The act of spearing and butt-ending seldom result in a player suspension. Instead, a fine may be imposed (but not always as we have seen) by the Player Safety Committee. It would appear that players are utilizing both ends of their hockey stick on a more consistent basis in violation of rule 58 (butt-ending) and rule 62 (spearing). This season the following fines have been levied for these illegal acts:
February 6, 2014: Alexei Emelin - Montreal Canadiens - Butt-ending Pascal Pelletier ($5,000)
March 20, 2014: David Legwand - Detroit Red Wings - Butt-ending Evgeni Malkin ($5,000)
April 13, 2014: Scott Hartnell - Philadelphia Flyers - Spearing Brett Bellemore ($5,000)
April 18, 2014: Milan Lucic - Boston Bruins -Spearing Danny DeKeyser ($5,000)
April 25, 2014: Ryan Garbutt - Dallas Stars - Spearing Corey Perry ($1,474.36)
You also might recall in the Ducks-Stars series on April 18th that Corey Perry was given a "slashing" minor when he "speared" Jamie Benn at 7:25 of the first period. Perry remained in the game as a result the "slashing" assessment and then scored an unassisted goal at 16:15 of the second in a 3-2 Anaheim win.
Milan Lucic was also guilty of an undetected 'backdoor' spear motion on Alexei Emelin in a game March 24. Neither of these incidents resulted in a fine. Beyond the non-call in the Bruins-Habs game the other night, no disciplinary action or fine will result from Lucic's latest spear on Emelin. It should also be noted that Emelin was guilty of cross-checking on the play and was not penalized for the infraction as well.
Fouls can be missed in the fast pace of the game. There is obvious reluctance on the part of the referees to call "spearing" for what it is due to the severity of the penalty that they must impose under the rule. Only when contact is significant, as in the Ryan Garbutt spear on Corry Perry, will we see the accurate call made. Perry's action on Jamie Benn was no less a spearing motion than Garbutt's, but due to lesser degree of contact (deemed to be minimal by the ref) the infraction was called 'slashing.' It is not the referee's job to interpret the relative value of the rule or base their assessment on the degree of contact (or non contact) when a spearing motion is delivered. That however is exactly what is being done. Under rule 62, the referee is empowered (and expected) to assess a double minor is imposed when a player spears an opponent and does not make contact. A major and game misconduct is to be assessed on a player who spears an opponent (makes contact).
When I attended my first NHL training camp for officials as a 20-year-old aspiring referee in 1972 we went through every rule in the book during daily classroom sessions. The rule book wasn't all that thick back then and the referee had the option of assessing a minor or major penalty for spearing based on the degree of contact. Wanting to understand the difference between the two applications I approached veteran referee Lloyd Gilmour for advice. I asked Gilmour what constituted the difference between a minor or major penalty for spearing. Without so much as a wink, Lloyd said, "Kid, if you see the spear go in its two minutes; if the stick comes out the player's back call it five!" Perhaps the veteran advice was a little tongue-in- cheek but in reality not all that far off from the application we might be seeing now.
Lyne, it is my opinion that there should be a fine imposed for every instance of spearing and butt-ending; regardless of the degree of contact or whether a penalty was imposed by the referee. Both are dangerous and cheap acts. Further to this, the referees must be directed to call the action of spearing and butt-ending for what they are and not place their personal value on the degree of contact made with the point or end of a player's stick.
It is the referees that are putting themselves in a "difficult position" by either ignoring the infraction or calling it by any other terminology than what it is. Penalty enforcement and fines would result in higher standards of player accountability and act as a stronger deterrent against these unwanted acts from being committed.