Fraser: My initial take on the Shea Weber incident

Kerry Fraser

4/13/2012 3:58:19 PM

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Hey Kerry,
I enjoy your CMon Ref pieces.  I have to ask, what is the thought process behind essentially no supplementary discipline to Shea Weber for his MMA cage match style head thump on Zetterberg?  I look at what Shanahan doled out to James Wisniewski in the pre-season, a punishment that cost him over $500,000, and can do nothing but shake my head at the pat on the back (you can't even call it a slap on the wrists) that Shanahan gave to Weber.  The inconsistencies coming out of Shanahan's office are more puzzling every day.  What's your take?
Joe Friedl
Mason, OH
Dear Mr. Fraser,
This may be a bit out of the area of officiating, but I am very confused (and frustrated) regarding the penalty and fine assessed to Shea Weber for his hit on Henrik Zetterberg after the conclusion of Game 1 of the Nashville/Detroit Series.  Weber pushed Zetterberg's head into the glass hard enough to break his helmet.  He received a 2 minute minor assessed at the 20:00 mark of the third period, of which he served zero.  Brendan Shanahan fined him $2500.  After a season of enforcing hits to the head, it seems to me that the NHL is sending the message that it is acceptable because it occurred after the buzzer, because it is the playoffs, or because there was no injury.  How would you have handled as an on-ice official?  What about off-ice (Mr. Shanahan's position)?
Thanks, and keep up the great work you do in your column.
Scott Furtaw
Saginaw, Michigan
Since I'm sure many people have asked you about this, I'll keep it short and simple: HOW ON EARTH WAS SHEA WEBER NOT SUSPENDED FOR TWO-HANDED SLAMMING ANOTHER PLAYER'S FACE INTO THE GLASS? What kind of precedent does that send after an entire season full of suspensions and detailed video explanations as to why each punishment was or was not handed out? Especially when the purpose of the strict enforcement was to prevent cheap shots to the head?

Joe, Scott and Eric:

There were several decisions that I made on the ice during my 30 year NHL officiating career that, upon reflection I wish I had handled differently. The decision not to suspend Shea Weber for the next game in the playoffs versus imposing the maximum allowable fine of $2,500 under the NHL-NHLPA agreement is one that perhaps both Brendan Shanahan and I would like to reverse.  As I said many times when I clicked on the microphone at ice level, "Upon Further Review..."

Whenever I judged an illegal act on the ice I attempted to properly quantify the severity of force exerted on an opponent and the resulting effect. Based on the varying degree of violence of the act and my perception of the players intent I could impose a minor, major (plus game misconduct where injury resulted) or a match penalty for a deliberate attempt to injure an opponent.

When major infractions and particularly match penalties were assessed there was often a gap in time from an initial confrontation between two players that could be deemed a reflex or continuation of a battle as opposed to the calculated delivery of a severe blow that took the infraction to the highest level on my penalty meter.

High on the penalty meter were dangerous and reckless decisions made by a player where sufficient space/distance and time occurred prior to contact on an opponent that was vulnerable. A few examples I might suggest that crossed the threshold for me would be Raffi Torres hit on Brent Seabrook in last years playoffs; from this season Tyler Myers hit from behind on Scott Gomez; Shane Doan elbow to the head of Jamie Benn; Duncan Keith's deliberate attempt to injure Daniel Sedin (all receiving a suspension from Shanny) and even the Milan Lucic open ice body check on Sabres goalie Ryan Miller. Many more specific plays could be cited but I hope you get the general picture as you attempt to apply your personal penalty meter.

My initial take on the Shea Weber incident did not cross the threshold due to the force that was exerted.  I concurred with the initial assessment on the ice and the maximum fine levied by Brendan Shanahan. As I reflect on my initial lack of sound judgment on the play I must agree that Shea Weber went beyond a typical hockey response after being slashed in the knee and then bumped from behind by Henrik Zetterberg which caused Weber's head to contact the glass. His immediate hard glove punch that fortunately missed the mark and glanced off the top of Zetterberg's helmet causing Henrik to place his glove in front of his face to act as a cushion was a hockey response; albeit an illegal one.

The continuation of Weber's hostility toward Zetterberg cannot be construed as a hockey play once Shea cerebrally departed the ice and entered the ring by using an open palm on the back of Henrik's helmet to push the Detroit player's head, now cushioned by his hockey glove, into the glass. In this unprecedented turnbuckle reflex maneuver on the ice, Shea Weber did pull up on the force he could have exerted against his defenseless opponent. Putting force or lack thereof aside, what Shea Weber did was optically horrible and potentially dangerous.

"Upon further review" I stand corrected. While Brendan Shanahan and his Player Safety Committee have made many excellent decisions (some popular - some not) in an effort to rid deliberate contact to the head and dangerous hits from the game the lack of suspension in this incident sends the wrong message.

Like a missed call that many of us wish we had a "do over" in hindsight, I hope that you will cut Brendan Shanahan and his group some slack on this decision. Understand this is a work in progress. Not all calls are going to perfect. I attempted to learn something from everyone that I missed; no differently than this one!

Scott you asked me how I would handle situations such as this on the ice and from Brendan Shanahan's chair.  Moving forward, if a player was to push an opponent's head into the glass or onto the ice with force such as this I would assess a match penalty for deliberate attempt to injury. This would result in an automatic suspension of the player until a full review and hearing was convened. 

Given the current standard that has been established this season for supplementary discipline and dependent upon on the degree of violence and force exerted (in general terms) I would impose a minimum one game to a maximum five game suspension.  (I say "general terms" because in extreme cases an open-ended suspension could be imposed).

Shea Weber would have received a one-game suspension in addition to the maximum allowable fine for his inappropriate reaction and potentially dangerous response to a hit by Henrik Zetterberg.

Some might suggest one playoff game would not be enough of a suspension in this case. Next season you just might be right. For now, however, I ask you to use the two-game suspension that Byron Bitz received for his lengthy run and illegal hit to Kyle Clifford's head as a comparable.

While even hindsight isn't always 20-20, I think we can agree that a better message needs to be sent on this one.

Get ready for more great games this Friday the 13th.  I'm sitting in the TSN studio and watching every one of them as they are being played. C'mon Ref!!

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