Fraser: Prospal's finger point not worthy of misconduct

Kerry Fraser
3/11/2013 2:53:54 PM
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In the Blue Jackets game on Saturday vs. the Red Wings, Vinny Prospal was assessed a 10 min. misconduct for pointing to the scoreboard during a "conversation" with one of the Red Wings. Just wondering what criteria is used in determining whether or not to assess a misconduct penalty in this situation? Seems like his gesture was no more of an instigating nature than any of the other yapping that goes on during the course of a game.
Ardie Burkholder
Columbus, Ohio


I have to agree with Detroit Red Wings color commentator, Mickey Redmond, that we (the referees) have become far too sensitive if Vinny Prospal's finger point at the score clock was worthy of a 10 minute misconduct following a minor scrum with Wings forward Justin Abdelkader.

With the Blue Jackets leading by a score of 3-0 and with less than six and half minutes remaining in regulation time, Vinny Prospal was shoved/cross-checked from behind into the Red Wings goal crease by Justin Abdelkader. Linesman Vaughan Rody did a good job containing Prospal, especially once his pointer finger moved skyward toward the score clock. At this point, a verbal warning issued to Vinny Prospal by referee Ian Walsh would have sufficed instead of going straight to the misconduct penalty.

Rule 74.5 calls for a misconduct penalty to be assessed to any player who persists in any course of conduct (including threatening or abusive languages or gestures or similar actions) designed to incite an opponent into incurring a penalty. It also goes on to say that in general, participants displaying this type of behavior are assessed a minor penalty, then a misconduct penalty and then a game misconduct penalty if they persist.

Ardie, the key word displayed in the rule is "persists." I didn't see Vinny Prospal 'persisting' in any course of conduct or gestures after linesman Rody told the player to stop pointing and moved his arm down.

There are times when a player's inappropriate gesture crosses the line of acceptable 'sportsmanlike conduct' and will be penalized without warning.  The referee might also assess an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty to deescalate tensions that are on the verge of boiling over if a gesture is utilized that incites his opponents. Rifle gestures or a salute into the net following the scoring of a goal, as well as snowing the goalie, often bring in the cavalry and will result in a quick response by the referee. In the late stages of a game that has been pretty much decided a "troublemaker" might be sent to the shower just to keep the peace if his sole purpose is to instigate an altercation. Common sense and proactive refereeing can best serve the game in a situation such as this.

Vinny Prospal is a skilled player that does not fit the typical MO of a "troublemaker." I saw no need to assess an unsportsmanlike conduct minor or especially to send Vinny for a hot shower on this play.

There are far more important issues that occur in a game beyond eliminating a player who points his finger at the score clock; unless of course the cavalry take offense and mount an attack.

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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