Fraser: Shanahan missed the call and has sent wrong message

Kerry Fraser

11/14/2011 9:08:10 PM

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Hi Kerry,
I caught the highlights of Milan Lucic bowling over Ryan Miller on Saturday night. There is no attempt made by Lucic to let up, it actually appears as if he gets his hands and stick up quite high and if Miller had not turned his shoulder he would have caught him clean in the head.
If you were the official in this case would you have assessed a minor penalty for charging or would you have upped the ante by tacking on intent to injure? On top of that do you feel it would be appropriate for the league to give Lucic any supplemental discipline?
Jake in Thunder Bay

Hi Kerry,
On Saturday, Boston's Milan Lucic 'ran into' Buffalo's Ryan Miller and received a charging penalty on the play. 
What protection is granted to a goaltender while out of the crease and do you think there will be any supplementary discipline by the NHL against Milan Lucic for his hit on Ryan Miller
I appreciate your blog and find your explanations of the rules helpful. Keep up the good work.

Hey Kerry,
Watching the Buffalo/Boston game, I was just wondering what your thoughts were about the hit Lucic put on Miller. Why was it only a minor penalty?

In the Boston-Buffalo game, I'm sure you saw the hit Lucic gave on goalie Ryan Miller. I know suspensions are up to Shanahan and his crew (not on-ice officials), but my question is what call would you have made as the on-ice official?
Thanks in advance,

Jake, Mike, Tyler & Josh:

I apologize for getting this response to you late. The day has been crazy here in Toronto with the Hockey Hall of Fame activities and my media/book signing schedule.

Brendan Shanahan and the Player Protection Committee have already ruled on the body check Milan Lucic delivered on Ryan Miller of the Buffalo Sabres that has left the goalie with concussion-like symptoms. I have been a strong advocate of the work that Shanny has been doing to this point of the season with supplementary discipline but I have to disagree with his ruling on this one.

I believe he really missed this call and has sent the wrong message. Like it or not, goalies enjoy preferential treatment similar to endangered species in the wild; at least up until this latest decision. It would now appear they are subjected to the same rules as any other player once they leave the "protection of their nest!" Lindy Ruff has every right to call foul on this non-suspension. Milan Lucic should have been suspended for the next two games.

I attended a meeting one summer with team general managers and coaches to discuss various topics on the game. A hot topic on the agenda was protection of the goalkeepers. It was generally agreed that goalies deserved preferential treatment and marked "untouchable" for a variety of reasons. (Rule 42- charging - pretty much makes goalies immune to body contact from opposing players.)

During that meeting I recalled Glen Sather, as GM of the Edmonton Oilers at the time, voice a word of caution that granting goalies immunity from body contact created an unfair advantage because players such as Ron Hextall and Martin Brodeur could pass and shoot the puck better than most defensemen in the League,. In spite of this consideration goalies became pretty much off-limits.

Rule 42 pretty much make goalies immune from body contact by opposing players. It reads: "A minor, major or a game misconduct shall be imposed on a player who charges a goalkeeper while the goalkeeper is within his goal crease."

In a practical application, any time that a player takes a run at a goalie from a distance and hits him with velocity while within this crease a major penalty (and likely a game misconduct) is applied.

The next portion of the rule applies to the Lucic hit on Miller where it goes on to state, "A goalkeeper is not 'fair game' just because he is outside the goal crease area. The appropriate penalty should be assessed in every case where an opposing player makes unnecessary contact with a goalkeeper. However, incidental contact, at the discretion of the referee, will be permitted when the goalkeeper is in the act of playing the puck outside his goal crease provided the attacking player has made a reasonable effort to avoid such contact." 

In plain and simple terms this translates to DON'T TOUCH THE GOALIE.
This was not a race to a loose puck where a collision resulted through a tie in the footrace. This was not "incidental contact" nor was any effort, let alone a "reasonable effort" made by Milan Lucic to avoid Ryan Miller after the goalkeeper released the puck.

This was very clearly a hard shoulder body check finished with elevated hands, delivered by an attacking forward on a goalie that did not expect to be hit under protection of the playing rules. Any other player would expect to be hit on the finish of a check - a goalkeeper does not. I deem it a dangerous play and it creates an even more dangerous precedent.

In my judgment this open-ice check on the goalie deserved more than a 2 minute minor penalty. A major for charging would be the most appropriate penalty for this type hit on a goalkeeper. (A game misconduct would only be added if an injury resulted to the face or head of Miller. He remained in the game for a period of time so this would be impossible for the referee to ascertain when the penalty assessment was made.)

The end result of the body check was a concussion to the Sabres goalkeeper; arguably their best and most important player on the team.

A strong message should be been sent throughout the hockey community with the assessment of a two (2) game suspension to Milan Lucic through supplementary discipline. Players (and more importantly goalies) would know that the League still considers them endangered and will continue to protect them from full blown body checks. It now appears that hunting season is now open. The license only takes "two minutes" to fill out and can be completed from the penalty box.