Fraser: Determining responsibility on the big hits

Kerry Fraser

3/19/2012 10:51:22 PM

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Hi Kerry,
Great them! Very informative and I like the way you don't sit on the fence on most topics!
I am wondering what if anything you would have called on Cory Sarich in Saturday's Calgary/Edmonton game? The first hit on Hall (in my opinion) was not so much a dirty hit, as a charge. I don't think Sarich was playing the puck when he decided to pinch, it looks to me as if he was going for the body the whole way. I probably would have called a charge on the play. It probably would have been better if Hall didn't duck/fall, the contact would have been hard, but not to his head.
The second hit behind the net, was (again in my opinion) a suspendable hit from behind. I would like to know your take on this.
Thanks Kerry. Keep up the good work.

P.S. I even have my Dad (72 years young) reading your column, and he wasn't your biggest fan when you were reffing...LOL.
Hi Kerry,
I have to admit, not only am I confused on the head shot rule, I am upset with what I have seen with calls, and non-calls. The two incidents I refer to are the Kronwall hit on Voracek vs. the Sarich hit on Hall.
In my own personal opinion, based on the rule in place, the calls on these plays should have been the opposite. Kronwall clearly nailed Voracek with the back of his shoulder directly to the face, which is by definition, a head shot, correct? No penalty was assessed, and no disciplinary action from Shanahan.
Hall is turning up the boards as Sarich is closing in, Hall loses an edge and is obviously falling as Sarich makes contact. Sarich didn't even hit Hall in the head, Hall was hit in the shoulder, by Sarich's hip, or thigh. His head bounced off the ice, which is more likely to have injured him. Sarich was ejected, and quite likely will face some disciplinary action.
I know you liked the call on the ice, but I just don't get it. Can you please help me understand what is going on in the NHL right now?
Signed, Confused

Dear "Confused" and 72 Year Old Dad & Son:

Cory Sarich was not ejected for the contact on Taylor Hall as was initially reported. As a matter of fact Sarich did not receive a penalty for this element of the play. Instead Calgary went on the power play when Ryan Whitney was assessed a double minor and Sarich received a single minor for roughing in the altercation that immediately followed.

As Edmonton GM, Steve Tambellini stated in the first period intermission there is a responsibility for Hall to make sure that he sees (the ice); namely to be aware of his environment and for potential contact from opponents. Steve went on to say that there is also a responsibility on a player that is charging in with that kind of speed (from the point or along the boards) and there are consequences (that can result).

Initially I thought that Sarich was guilty of charging given the distance he travelled from the blue line down to the point of contact just above the hash marks. Sarich was committed to the hit however he was in glide pattern well in advance of impact and therefore not guilty of charging. This would be deemed a normal pinch prior to the legal delivery of a body check.

When Hall lost footing his body position was altered significantly just prior to impact. It was not any part of Sarich's body that became the principle point of contact to Hall's head. As correctly pointed out by "Confused" in his question, Taylor Hall's head hit the ice following the collision with Sarich. Sarich was not guilty of committing an infraction in this case. We will never know what sort of contact Sarich would have delivered (legal or otherwise) if Hall had remained on his feet.

What I do know is that the second hit by Sarich delivered on Ryan Jones with 34 seconds remaining in the first period was at the very least a boarding minor and at worst a check from behind. There was only a quick real-time look at this play as Calgary was killing a minor penalty to Mark Giordano. Jones had turned facing the end boards below the Calgary goal line to play the puck when Sarich attacked from the front of the net and made hard contact directly to the back of the Edmonton forward.

Jones was vaulted forward and fell awkwardly into the glass/end boards. From the back camera angle it is impossible to tell if Jones was able to get his hands up to protect himself prior to his face/head making contact with the glass. The referee down low behind the goal line would have had the best angle to determine that aspect. 

No call resulted.

As I said initially, given the distance that Jones was from the boards and the degree of violence of the impact with the boards at the very least a minor penalty for boarding was deserved. 

On the other play you questioned, as Jakub Voracek turned and moved up the side wall with the puck he was exposed to a hit. Using Steve Tambellini's philosophy, Voracek must take some responsibility to be aware of his environment but so must his attacker.

What I absolutely don't like on this hit by Niklas Kronwall is that Kronwall didn't just turn his back to make an exceptionally hard check on a vulnerable player but elevated his entire torso to the point that when contact was made both of Kronwall's skates were off the ice. By utilizing this elevation Voracek's head became the principle point of contact as Kronwall snuck a peek and drove his left shoulder into the jaw of Voracek. Voracek's hands reached for the sky as he lay on his back not knowing where he was in the moment.

By plain and simple definition this is an illegal check to the head as defined in rule 48; "A hit resulting in contact with an opponent's head is targeted and the principal point of contact is not permitted."

If any minor alteration in body posture by Jakub Voracek immediately prior to or simultaneously with the hit is used as a loop hole to avoid the penalty or further action, I say rubbish. The fact that Kronwall elevates and checks up with skates off the ice at impact demonstrates to me that the head area of Voracek was the intended target. (Even if it wasn't it became the principal point of contact).

This kind of checking culture must stop. Legal checks must be delivered below the neck of an opponent. Incidents such as this must be dealt with on a consistent basis on and off the ice.

All inconsistency does is create confusion! Wouldn't you agree "Signed Confused?"

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