Fraser: Penalty on Clarkson should not have been called

Kerry Fraser
6/7/2012 4:24:23 PM
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Hi Kerry,

I had a question regarding officiating and their involvement or non-involvement in "tilting" games.

During Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final, David Clarkson was given a minor penalty for boarding Dustin Brown at 8:52 into the third period. Nobody wants to blame a win or loss on officiating, but a call like this very much confuses me. Clarkson does charge into the boards and knocks Brown somewhat from behind, but we all know the unspoken standard of officiating and "letting the boys play it out", especially when it is a 0-0 tie in the third period. But it seems somewhat strange to me that such a weak call was made at such an important point of the hockey game.

It also happened to be called only minutes after the Devils went up by one. So my question is this: What is your honest opinion of this play and are there other times a referee will make "phantom calls" for any number of reasons? Thanks!

Jeremy Schroeder


Hi Kerry - Can you please explain why the ref would call a boarding penalty on Clarkson for his somewhat late hit in the third period of last night's game? Considering some of the hacks and whacks that weren't called in order to let the players play, this call seemed absolutely ridiculous, especially in a potential series ending game. Would you have called it?

Justin Ruka


Kerry...I'm currently watching Game 4 and I cannot believe the call that was given to David Clarkson which lead to LA's tying goal. I've watched hockey for the last 20 years of my life and I have never once given any thought to the Canadian bias rumours or other such conspiracies! But this playoff year I have been disgusted at the blatant want for an LA or NY cup win!

M. Morgese

Jeremey, Justin and M. Morgese:

My honest opinion of the boarding penalty assessed to David Clarkson just 56 seconds after Patrik Elias scored to give the Devils a short-lived 1-0 lead at 7:56 of the third period of Game 4 is that it was not a strong call.  No penalty should have resulted on the play.

That being said I can assure M. Morgese and all that there is no bias or other such conspiracies from the League or any of their game officials that would have caused the penalty to be called. I would only describe the call as an error in judgment or overreaction by the back referee on the play given the vantage point from which he viewed the play. While mistakes and errors in judgment are part of the human element of officiating it is wrong to suggest a bias or conspiracy to favour one team over another. That would be blatant cheating and the officials have too much integrity to be part of such a thing. Mistakes, errors or incompetent decisions can result from a variety of factors but most often from a less than optimum sightline on a play. They are honest mistakes! The NBA unfortunately had one rogue referee who was punished for his crimes. Referee Tim Donaghy was the exception to the character and integrity possessed by members of the officiating fraternity.

The late finish by Clarkson on Dustin Brown was deemed to be a penalty by the back referee who was positioned on the opposite side of the ice a considerable distance away from the check. The apparent angle the referee had would indicate that he was looking through Clarkson's back at the point of impact but would have also seen the considerable distance of separation between the two players in advance of the hit once Brown had released the puck. While it is true Clarkson approached Brown from behind the Devil player made a concerted effort not to make contact to Brown's numbers (middle of the back). Clarkson was also cognizant and careful not to generate excessive velocity that would typically result in a penalty.

Given the ebb and flow of the game with hits and contact that was previously deemed legal and for the elements I just described on Clarkson's contact with Brown, I would not have called a penalty on this play. As the back referee I would have deferred to my partner who was closer and on the same side of the ice as the hit. As the front referee I would have been in a better position to see Clarkson avoid direct, hard contact with Brown. It would also be easier from this vantage point to identify that Brown stumbled somewhat awkwardly into the boards and not so much from any excessive impact delivered by Clarkson.

I am not endorsing in any way that the referees should put the whistle away in the late stages of game or series or as a result of the score. However with an eye to the standard that has been set throughout the game, when a player crosses the line and commits an infraction it should be called. "Weak" calls are magnified in the late stages of the game. It takes tremendous concentration on the part of the officials to know the difference.  Most of the time they get it right, as was the case when the back referee caught Willie Mitchell strike Ilya Kovalchuk under his visor with a high stick at 17:10 of the third period and assessed the appropriate penalty. There was no conspiracy here.

I want to also commend David Clarkson for remaining focused on his task and for not blowing up when Drew Doughty scored just four seconds into the power play. I have seen players totally lose their cool in situations such as this and take themselves out of the game. Clarkson made a terrific play on Adam Henrique's game-winning goal. This speaks to the character of Clarkson and he is a champion in my books.

Focus and concentration are vitally important to achieve success whether you are a player or a referee. Game 4 was very exciting to watch. I expect more of the same on Saturday night at the Rock regardless of the outcome.

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.

Kerry Fraser

Kerry Fraser

Kerry Fraser is an analyst for the NHL on TSN and That's Hockey 2Nite on TSN2. As one of the league's most recognizable senior referees, he's worked 1,904 NHL regular season games and 261 playoff games during his 37-year career.

Got a question on rule clarification, comments on rule enforcements or some memorable NHL stories? Kerry wants to answer your emails at!

You can also follow Kerry Fraser on Twitter at @kfraserthecall!

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