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Fraser: Keith demonstrated no intent on playing the puck

Kerry Fraser

3/22/2012 3:47:39 PM

Got a question on rule clarification, comments on rule enforcements or some memorable NHL stories? Kerry Fraser wants to answer your emails at cmonref@tsn.ca!

Hey Kerry,

I have found your article very informative, and as a referee myself I have been very puzzled by some situations, which you have explained very well. I am, however, completely befuddled by the call against Duncan Keith in today's game. How could this be anything other than a five minute major and a game misconduct for elbowing? There was clear intent, with a high elbow that was targeting a players head without any other body contact being made. Is this not the exact type of malicious hit that the NHL wants removed from hockey? If so, do they really think that a two minute minor is the way to solve this issue? I, for one, do not believe so, as in-game punishment is the best deterrent as it forces a team to adjust their strategy and be missing a man off the bench with no way to replace him.

Regards,
Carlin Beirne

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Kerry, I am enraged by the call on Duncan Keith against Daniel Sedin. Keith clearly did not go for the puck when it flew errantly over Daniel's head off the glass, and Keith launched his elbow into the head of the Canuck winger. Why, when it was a direct elbow to the head causing an injury, was this only a two minute minor and not 5 and a game for intent to injure. It is sickening.

Richard Lee
Saltspring Island, BC

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Hi Kerry,

I am wondering if you could clarify what the difference between a major and a minor elbowing penalty should be.  After seeing Doan's elbow on Benn, and now Keith's flying elbow to Daniel Sedin's face, it seems to me that complete decapitation is the only way a player would receive a major penalty in today's NHL.  As always, I enjoy your insight and thank you in advance.

Cheers,
Chris

Carlin, Richard, Chris, all players, fans and NHL Officiating:

The deliberate elbow delivered by Duncan Keith directly to the head of Daniel Sedin was at bare minimum a five-minute major and game misconduct for elbowing.  The best call would have been a match penalty under Rule 45.5 for deliberate attempt to injure under the elbowing rule!

Duncan Keith demonstrated absolutely no intent on playing the puck that flew off the glass and was well out of range of Sedin when contact was made.  Instead, once the opportunity for a payback on Daniel's non-penalized shoulder contact to Keith's head six and a half minutes earlier reared its ugly head, Duncan Keith seized the moment in an open-ice assault.   As Daniel turned to look up ice and follow the puck, Duncan Keith's elbow was elevated, cocked and planted with force directly to the head of a surprised Daniel Sedin.

If Duncan Keith had hauled off and sucker-punched Sedin or cracked him over the head with his stick instead of with a deliberate elbow, I would hope that most referees would deem either of those acts as a premeditated attempt to injure his opponent and appropriately assess a match penalty.

The two acts I just described would not be deemed as checking tactics on a play of this nature; or even illegal ones that would result in a minor penalty. They would cross the line that defines normal minor infractions and venture into the most dangerous territory of attempting to injure a player. How does a deliberate elbow to the head, which generated as much force or more than a punch or stick, possibly be deemed a minor infraction? The truth is; there is no logical rational to support a minor penalty on this play or others that we have seen recently occur.

Daniel Sedin should not have gotten a free pass last night in the game either. His high hit on Duncan Keith warranted at least a minor penalty for boarding or as I would prefer, an illegal check to the head. Even though this is not the type of hit you would expect from Daniel Sedin nor does he have a previous history, his illegal contact to the head of Duncan Keith should also be reviewed and dealt with.

Last night I appeared on That's Hockey 2Nite on TSN2 via a Skype transmission from my home studio.  My friend and show host, Steve Kouleas, asked me how much responsibility the on-ice officials have to help solve the problem of head hits and do Brendan Shanahan and the on-ice officials need to work in unison?  The answer was a resounding, "YES they do!"

The officials are the first line of defense in enforcing an acceptable standard on all rule infractions. How they employ this standard across the board goes a long way to act as a deterrent for player willingness to break the rules and more importantly in providing for player safety.

The official's ability to accurately differentiate between minor and major infractions on the ice is vital to the success of controlling (and hopefully someday eliminating) dangerous hits and deliberate hits to the head of an opponent. Game enforcement is not only a most visible sign to participants in that specific game but to the hockey community at large as to what is deemed acceptable conduct. 

In too many situations witnessed this season, the officials have either missed the mark altogether or came up short by at least three minutes plus a game misconduct.  The judgment of the referees needs to be collectively and immediately retooled by NHL V.P. of Officiating, Terry Gregson, to conform to a higher standard that is currently being maintained by the Player Safety Committee.

As much as the on-ice officials are the first line of defense, Brendan Shanahan and the Player Safety Committee are the last line defense. For the most part Brenda Shanahan has done a very good job in ruling on dangerous hits and has levied suspensions this season that were previously unheard of.  With some teams just 10 games away from playoff competition and chasing a spot, decisions on suspensions at this time can have a huge impact on a team.

This factor did not deter 'Shanny' from imposing a deserved three-game suspension to Shane Doan for his elbow on Jamie Benn. The Coyotes sit tied in points for the last playoff spot with the LA Kings, who have  a game in hand and are just two point ahead of San Jose (one game in hand) and Calgary. Shane Doan is a key cog in the Phoenix Coyotes' machine and will miss Conference games against Colorado, San Jose and St. Louis.

Decisions at this time are also crucial in maintaining player accountability and a standard that hopefully will act as a strong deterrent moving into the playoffs. I look for Duncan Keith to receive a minimum of five games for his deliberate elbow to the head of Daniel Sedin. In addition, it is my hope that Daniel Sedin receives a one-game suspension for his careless hit to the head of Duncan Keith that was not penalized.

The on-ice officials (refs) need to work more in unison with Brendan Shanahan in the area of enforcement and to help support tough decisions that are being made with player safety in mind. That, by the way, is one of the primary job descriptions of the referee.

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