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Fraser: Careless checking always a dangerous situation

Kerry Fraser

1/23/2013 1:48:52 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!

Hi Kerry,

There was a questionable hit on Tuesday night where Brayden Schenn laid out Anton Volchenkov in the second period of the Flyers/Devils game. Now there should have been a call on this hit, but as an official, how much leverage do you give when you see a hit like that? Do both of the hitter's feet have to leave the ice for a call? Would you be looking for something else like an elbow or something? What do you see in this incident?

Joe Kibble


Joe:

What I see is that Brayden Schenn's upward launch that resulted in contact to the head of Devils defenceman Anton Volchenkov was beyond a questionable hit and should land the Flyers player a one-game suspension based on recent Player Safety Decisions demonstrated thus far by Brendan Shanahan.

Players must be forced to keep their skates on the ice when delivering a check, regardless of the velocity generated, thereby reducing the risk that contact might occur above the neck of their opponent! Careless checks of this nature (skates off the ice) most often result in an opponent's head becoming either the principle or incidental point of contact and greatly increases the potential for injury; especially concussions. Illegal checking tactics such as this must be eliminated from the game. What is the solution?

To start, the referees must be instructed to assess a penalty whenever a player's skates leave the ice to deliver a check; either in a frontal, side, backdoor or reverse hit. A new rule would NOT be required to police this dangerous tactic. Instead, the refs just have to enforce the language contained in the existing charging rule: "A minor or major penalty shall be imposed on a player who skates or jumps into or charges an opponent in any manner."

The second line of defence in keeping players' skates on the ice will be for Shanahan and the Player Safety Committee to continue their ongoing vigilance of review and suspending players for dangerous, reckless and careless hits of this nature. 

Enforcement on both of these fronts will go a long way in educating players and forcing better decisions to hopefully illuminate this illegal and dangerous checking tactic.

So what I am suggesting here Joe, is that when a player's skates leave the ice there should be no leeway ("leverage") given to the player and a minor penalty for charging should result. There was no call on this play in part because the referee on the goal line had split his focus of attention as a result of his positioning. His sight line veered to the front of the net and back to the corner to perhaps catch the tail end of Schenn's finishing hit. As such, the referee was caught off guard and did not react.

It is also important for a referee to maintain an upper body focus on most plays. That means don't drop your eye level and make the puck or player's skates your primary focus. It is best to focus on the upper mass of players to catch a quick elbow, punch or contact to the head of an opponent. The exception to this rule is when the referee attempts to find the puck in a goal crease scramble. It is this moment where he has to tunnel his visual focus of attention downward to accomplish this specific task of finding a potentially loose puck.

The bigger issue Joe, is the question that you have brought forward today; that is to keep players skates on the ice when delivering a check. Perhaps a one-game suspension to Schenn (great kid - but poor decision) and any other player that commits a similar act will move everyone closer to that end.