Fraser: Instigator rule all but lost on Doan-Morrow exchange

Kerry Fraser

3/21/2012 7:44:05 PM

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Mr. Fraser,
Once again this rule is overlooked.
Shane Doan throws a major elbow to the head of Jamie Benn and then CLEARLY drops the gloves and goes after Brenden Morrow. He receives a minor for elbowing, a major for fighting, and the unsuspecting Morrow who was just defending himself, receives a major as well. Fair? Hardly.

Why is there no instigator called on this play which is quite obviously textbook?
Why is the rule in the book if it's not going to be called?
Rick Prochaska

Shane Doan threw a "fly-by" elbow that was delivered directly to the head of Jamie Benn. This could in no way be construed as an attempted check that went bad. I wouldn't even give Shane the benefit of the doubt that he made himself bigger as he was going to miss Benn as the Dallas Star circled and chipped the puck up the boards. While the elbow was somewhat out of character for Doan, he is too good a checker for that courtesy (benefit of the doubt) to be extended.

For whatever reason it happened, the protruded elbow that made direct contact with Benn's chin was worthy of a five-minute major and game misconduct. This type of direct hit to the head of an opponent is not only illegal but is also worthy of a suspension.

We don't get a great look as the play continues after the elbow but what I see very quickly from the footage is that Morrow turns his body position toward Doan out toward the blue line. It looks like Brenden Morrow squared up to intercept Doan following the dirty elbow delivered to his teammate Benn. Raffi Torres can be seen grabbing Morrow from behind as Doan was moving toward them and exiting the zone. This would indicate that Morrow's posture at least was perceived as menacing to the two Coyote players. (We also don't know if Morrow said something to engage Doan as he was skating out of the zone.)

There is no question Doan fired the gloves down first. I don't believe it was that his intent was to attack Morrow so much as that he accepted the expected challenge that would come following his elbow to the head of Benn. Shane Doan wasn't going to wait for a formal invitation to be received from the Stars captain to engage in fisticuffs but instead jumped the gun on a fight he thought was inevitable.

Rick, I have seen many textbook cases of the instigator rule not called this season; many far worse than this example. An obvious instigator of a fight usually results when players take exception to a check (illegal or otherwise) delivered on their teammate by an opponent. 

The spirit of the rule and for sure the language of it is all but lost. "Rule 46.11; An instigator of an altercation shall be a player who by his actions or demeanor demonstrates any/some of the following criteria; distance traveled; gloves off first; first punch thrown; menacing attitude or posture; verbal instigation or threats; conduct in retaliation to a prior game (or season) incident; obvious retribution for a previous incident in the game or season."

On this play, as Morrow squared up to potentially meet and greet Doan as Coyote captain was exiting the Stars zone, there is reasonable discretion available for the referee not to deem Doan the instigator. Even though it is not written in the language of the rule it is my understanding that some of the new criteria utilized by the referees in applying the instigator rule are "if a fair fight resulted". If that is any part of the determination then the instigator rule is certainly obsolete the way it is written.



Could you speak about "the Chief" (head of security for MSG and Rangers/NHL Referees) and your relationship and gesture as he was suffering from cancer. Your move with wearing the helmet was very classy, it resonated with the staff and organization.

I heard about it as an employee three steps removed. I am sure it was twisted, or not completely relayed to me.

I am a USA hockey ref, great admirer of your NHL work and column.
Best regards,
Michael J. Steele

Dear Michael:
I don't make it a habit of answering multiple questions in this forum. I also don't wish to bring attention to myself over a gesture that was extended to a grieving family over the loss of their spouse, father, 'pop-pop' and friend. Your question brought more than one tear to my eye however as I recalled our good friend, Chief Dennis Ryan and his family and wish to share him with all of you.

One of our blessings in life, no matter what our occupation, is that we encounter very special people on our journey. Cherish them when they are here and never forget them when they are gone.

Chief Dennis Ryan, former Bronx Police Chief, and longtime NHL/New York Rangers security representative was one of those very special people. "Chief's" son Bernie, still a member of the Rangers off-ice crew, can be seen opening the Rangers penalty box door and along with Chief's daughter Mary Catherine and his grandchildren Finn, Shayne, Bryan and Terry, they are a living legacy to this great man. The family also remains among the biggest Rangers fans on the planet just like Chief was!

The big, happy-go-lucky Irishman was a devout Rangers fan for sure even though his job was to serve and protect the entire NHL family which included the officials. Through good calls, bad calls and those that went against his beloved Rangers, Chief always had our back. He was the friendly face that awaited each official when he arrived in our MSG dressing room.

In recognition of my 1,500th regular season game my family and I were honoured in a red carpet pre-game ceremony on MSG ice by Bill Daly on behalf of the NHL. As a surprise to me and in special remembrance of this milestone my wife, Kathy, had commissioned an artist to produce a beautiful pencil sketch6 commemorating highlights from my career, choosing four of some of the greatest players I had shared NHL ice with. (Kathy selected Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Guy Lafleur and Mark Messier for inclusion in the sketch).

Kathy hoped that after Bill Daly presented me with the Tiffany Crystal, Mark Messier would present me with the surprise art work on behalf of her and the family. When Kathy inquired with the Rangers staff she was advised that due to restricted television broadcast timing that would not be possible. Disappointed, Kathy mentioned it to Chief. All Chief Ryan said was, "Leave it wit me Kath" (in his best Bronx-Irish.)

Messier presented the artwork that night on the ice. Chief told Kathy that he had gone to 'Mess' and told him of the request. Mark then went upstairs, had a brief meeting told someone in charge and advised them he was presenting a picture to Kerry on the ice before the game — no questions asked. As Chief put it, "When 'Moose' speaks, things get done!"

Following Dennis Ryan's passing on February 6, 2006, the Rangers players and all the NHL on-ice officials wore a shamrock with Chief's initials on their helmet in memoriam. The problem was I didn't wear a helmet at the time and never expected I would.

On my first return to MSG for a Rangers game following Chief's passing I arranged to wear a helmet so that I could honour my dear friend by wearing his shamrock. Since I never intended on needing the helmet again I planned to auction this one-of-a-kind piece of hockey memorabilia on Ebay with all proceeds to go to Chief Ryan's grandchildren's college fund.

The Washington Capitals were the visitors that night and to drive the value up Jaromir Jagr and Alex Ovechkin graciously agreed to sign the helmet after the game. Even though my signature with these two superstars probably devalued the piece the eventual large winning bid came from Chief's assistant, dear friend and current NHL/NY Rangers security representative Steve Varga.

Varga now stands watch at Madison Square Garden; a post he once shared with our dear friend and his, Chief Dennis Ryan. Steve's current assignment reminds me of the sign that hangs in the Montreal Canadiens dressing room which reads, "To you from failing hands, we throw the torch...".

(Somehow I know Chief will be waiting to give it to me for a reference to the Montreal Canadiens! Until then he will continue to cheer for his beloved Rangers. This could be the year Chief!)

Click here to pay tribute to Chief Dennis Ryan.

For a personally autographed copy of Final Call from TSN hockey analyst and former NHL referee Kerry Fraser, visit The Book Keeper website.

For a regular copy of Final Call from TSN hockey analyst and former NHL referee Kerry Fraser, visit here.