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!
Watching the Leafs and Sens and as a minor league referee myself I am confused about the standard the NHL officials use for slashing.
It seems that regardless of the force of a 'slash,' a penalty is called whenever a stick is broken but the same 'slash' that does not break a stick is seldom called.
Is there an unwritten rule that the refs have been instructed to use as a deciding factor? Given the tendency for the sticks today to break under any pressure if they have been damaged in an earlier incident this rule of thumb seem very arbitrary!
As my colleague Ray Ferraro said on the TSN broadcast, it was hard for Mika Zibanejad to argue this slashing call once linesman Lonnie Cameron gathered the evidence of Leo Komarov's stick that was broken in two pieces.
You bring up an excellent point here, Jeff, with regard to stick breakage being a determining factor in the referees' standard for enforcing slashing. While there was some degree of downward force exerted by Mika Zibanejad's attempted "stick check," I can assure you if Leo Komarov's twig had not broken the referee would have wisely allowed play to continue. If that were the case, I hope you would agree a "no-harm-no-foul" judgment would be correct.
Once the stick broke through a slashing motion and the puck carrier (Komarov) could no longer participate in the play, it would be almost impossible for the referee to defend a non-call. The same standard is employed on the interference rule where a minor penalty is assessed on a player who deliberately knocks a stick out of an opponent's hand. Like it or not, these decisions can become very result oriented! The exception to this common sense standard is where the distance and force of the swing was so light it would be more reasonable to determine that the integrity of the stick had been previously compromised.
In the absence of physical evidence that a broken stick provides the language of Rule 61 must be taken into account exclusively.
Any forceful or powerful chop with the stick on an opponent's body, the opponent's stick, or on or near the opponent's hands that, in the judgment of the referee, is not an attempt to play the puck, shall be penalized as slashing.
"Forceful and powerful" are terms that usually result from the distance and length of the swing of a stick. Sliding the lower hand up the shaft toward the knob or bringing hands closer together to administer a chop is something the referees use to determine if a penalty is warranted.
Since slashing is determined based on the severity of the contact, a broken stick provides the 'smoking gun' for referees to assess a penalty in almost every case, Jeff.