Got a question on rule clarification, comments on rule enforcements or some memorable NHL stories? Kerry Fraser wants to answer your emails at firstname.lastname@example.org!
I know all the E-mails you're going to get about the overlooked/missed call in overtime by Dustin Brown, but I was curious as to how you as an official would handle what happened after the puck goes in on the next shift. It is noted that both Shane Doan and Mike Smith were assessed game misconduct penalties at the end of the game? How do officials deal with a no-win situation like this happening and how do officials deal with a controversial call/non-call that ends a team's season?
Can you find any way whatsoever to assuage the blow to hockey fans the world over after the officiating in Game 5 between the Kings and Coyotes? Missed high sticking, missed double minor high sticking, missed delay of game in overtime, missed five minute major on Dustin Brown (who no hockey fan can have much respect for after this series) and a series-ending goal right after? I am a Bruins fan so I don't particularly care about this series but as a fan of hockey I am trying to explain to the casual fans in the room why they should care about the NHL after this kind of officiating and I cannot at present find an argument.
Jonathan H. Nelson
Donovan and Jonathan:
Let me address the larger question from Mr. Nelson first. Jonathan, you look the casual fan right in the eye and with the passion and conviction that only a true hockey fan can muster, profess to them that the reason they should care about the NHL is because it is the best damn spectator sport in the world, played with unparalleled passion, by the most amazingly skilled athletes you will find assembled anywhere on this planet! The game has sustained action, speed, skill and bone crunching hits that will bring them out of their seats time and time again during a match.
Tell Mr. Casual Fan that once he or she becomes hooked on this great game they will understand that human error will be demonstrated on occasion by officials, coaches and players but mistakes never outweigh the sheer excitement they will derive from attending an intensely played game. Make the guarantee Jonathan they will never walk away from a game feeling like they were not part of something very special regardless of the outcome and will always come back for that same rush of adrenalin that will run through their veins. Share with them also that the more they think they know about the game and its rules, the greater number of fans they will find that don't often agree on things. This helps to kindle the fire and passion that each fan develops and shares. That's what I would tell the casual fan in the room if it were me, Jonathan.
Now let's talk about some of the "mistakes" (perceived or real) from Tuesday's game in Phoenix. In reality we just might not agree on things because after all, we are only human.
If you didn't already believe just how difficult a job it is to referee a hockey game I hope that this "C'mon Ref" column has opened you mind to that very fact since we started writing it. I think I'm safe in stating that most players and fans expect (if not demand) the impossible task of perfection from the officials. The truth is the officials often demand it of themselves as well even though it can never be achieved. The best an official can hope for is to limit his mistakes in the same way that players hope to throughout every game they participate in.
There have been many times when I did not agree with calls made by the officials and I have never shied away from stating it in this column or elsewhere. Here are some of the things that I did not agree with and some I did from last night's game.
I did not like the penalty to Drew Doughty of the L.A. Kings for knocking the net off. He lost an edge and was sliding backwards out of control and his momentum caused him to crash into the goal post and the net came off its moorings. While this was not a deliberate act to displace the goal post a penalty was called which resulted in a Phoenix power play goal.
Aside from a goalkeeper losing his mask during play there is no specific rule to cover the situation that we saw last night when Phoenix goalkeeper Mike Smith lost his catching glove. The referee has the authority however to stop play when he deems there is a safety issue (glass breaking, excessive debris thrown onto the ice during play, etc.) or when player injury has been sustained. Often this requires common sense.
I thought common sense should have demanded the referee(s) stop play when the catching glove was knocked off Smith's hand as an L.A. King dug the puck from under it. Serious injury could have resulted had Smith taken a shot or been slashed in the hand. I did not like the allowance for play to continue for an extended period when Smith was vulnerable to injury. I would have blown the play dead and offered a common sense reason to anyone that objected to my stopping play.
While Doughty almost lost his mind when he received an interference penalty at 10:54 of overtime I was okay with the penalty call. Doughty made himself bigger with his left hand and stick to gain the ice ahead of him by detaining his opponent instead of moving his feet in that instance. Doughty illegally prevented his opponent from attacking a loose puck. The problem is that this type of restraint, while a penalty, is not often called late in a game or OT which adds to the claim of inconsistency and player frustration. The Kings star defenceman was very lucky that his stick swinging and verbal assault of the referee did not result in an additional minor or misconduct penalty. The referee utilized sound judgment in not overreacting to this outburst of uncontrolled emotion.
I want to point out a player mistake that certainly had some impact on things when Martin Hanzal took a horrible and obvious slew-foot interference penalty with his team on a 5-on-3 advantage in the third period with the game and series on the line. I also must point out that very good judgment was utilized by the referee(s) when Hanzal threw his head back and clearly embellished an attempt to draw a high-sticking penalty in overtime. On the play Hanzal clamped onto Dustin Brown's stick that went under his arm prior to throwing the head back. It was a good non-call.
Now we come to Brown's hit on Michal Rozsival on an offside play at the blue line just prior to the goal. There are many mixed feelings on this hit being deemed a legal upper body hit where leg contact also resulted versus a penalty for kneeing. I did not like how Brown extended his knee on a wide glide path that created a leg/knee to leg hit on Rozsival. It is also unfortunate that the play was offside and the whistle blew just prior to contact. In real time the hit wouldn't look that bad unless you had an angle along the blue line to see Brown's knee extended outside of his foundation on the approach. (Skates shoulder width apart.) Even though Brown made a move upward and into Rozsival's upper body, his leg remained out and made significant contact with the leg (knee/thigh) of the Phoenix player. I would want to see a minor penalty for kneeing on this play as a result of the leg-to-leg contact based on the approach position of Brown's lead leg. While I am really sensitive to leg contact, neither Ref was lined up on the blue line to gain the sight line demonstrated on the television or replay. I am sure it looked like an upper body hit from the position each ref had at the time.
The goal that was scored on the ensuing faceoff reminded me of two controversial plays that I had in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. One was right — the other clearly wasn't.
In Game 5 of the Battle of Quebec in 1987 (Canadiens-Nordiques) I disallowed Alain Cote's shot into an open net after Brian Hayward was interfered with by Paul Gillis. On the next faceoff Guy Carbonneau set up Ryan Walter for the game winning goal. I was "dead right" on that call as I was dropped from the Stanley Cup Playoffs like a hot potato. The 25th anniversary of that call was last week and it was the news of the day across the Province of Quebec 25 years later.
The other one of course was in Game 6 of the Western Conference Final when I missed the high stick from Wayne Gretzky that cut Doug Gilmour's chin in overtime. 'Gretz' scored on the next faceoff and then had the game of his career in Game 7 back in Toronto to advance the L.A. Kings to the Stanley Cup Final against Montreal. While some Leafs fans have forgiven me, many have not. All fans that are old enough to remember have not forgotten; including me!
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