Fraser: A closer look at Hall's non-penalty slash on Michalek

Kerry Fraser
4/12/2013 2:36:41 PM
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Got a question on rule clarification, comments on rule enforcements or some memorable NHL stories? Kerry Fraser wants to answer your emails at!

How does Hall not get a penalty or a suspension on that two hander?  You can clearly see him hesitate until there was enough room for him to deliver a more vicious slash.  This makes no sense to me at all.
Shaun Dias
Hello Kerry:

You have have been asked this question already, but how do two experienced refs miss that vicious slash that Taylor Hall made Wednesday night?
PS - I watched you many times in the old Memorial arena in Victoria.

Bill Walter
Shaun & Bill:

This obvious slash by Taylor Hall to the back of the leg of Zbynek Michalek demonstrates another example of a breakdown in coverage in the two referee system once the puck location transitions from one player to another. Without being too technical, let me first answer your question as to how this infraction was missed.

In theory, the referee down low (in this case positioned on the opposite side of the ice along the goal line) is primarily responsible for the action on and around the puck from the top of the face-off circles to the end boards. The neutral zone referee's primary responsibility of coverage is on the non-action (or players away from the puck). As the puck transitions from player to player and moves beyond the top of the face-off circles, this primary area of coverage shifts from one referee to the other. There are also occasions when both referees observe the same infraction from their respective positions and will raise their arms simultaneously to make the call. The back/neutral zone referee generally has a broader perspective of the entire end zone and sees the play at a slower pace from this vantage point.

In practice, let me explain how the system failed. As the Oilers cycled the puck down low in the Coyotes end zone to the right of Mike Smith, Taylor Hall beat Zbynek Michalek to the puck on the half wall near the hash marks and passed off to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in the corner below the goal line. The referee (down low) on the opposite side goal line shifted his focus from Hall once he passed the puck to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in the corner and did not see the slashing infraction.

This should have been a routine call for the back referee to make from the neutral zone given the fact that it was on the same side of the ice he was positioned. Additionally, this was the strong side (overloaded with players) and there was no need for the back referee to deviate his focus anywhere but down the boards where Hall and Michalek remained engaged. Two errors committed by the back referee in his setup prevented him from seeing the obvious slash.

First, there was too much of a delay by the back referee moving through the neutral zone to catch up to the play after it entered the Phoenix end zone and once the cycle was well underway. He needed to assume his position near the blue line more quickly. Next, the referee's angle of approach was close to the boards near the linesman which resulted in an obstructed view as he looked through the backs of Oilers defenceman Ladislav Smid and Phoenix forward Radim Vrbata. It wasn't until after the slash had taken place that the back referee moved to open ice beyond the neutral zone face-off dot to draw an angle to the play with a clear and unobstructed view into the end zone. That is how the call on the ice was missed.

Now, let me address your question, Shaun, as to the absence of a suspension. Once Taylor Hall passed the puck off to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Zbynek Michalek backed into Hall and grabbed hold of the Oiler players stick. The clear hesitation by Hall that you saw, Shaun, was when he pulled his stick back and high to retrieve it from Michalek's grasp so that he could join the play. There is no question that Taylor Hall's downward slashing motion was excessive and worthy of a penalty on the ice. It was spontaneously delivered in a downward motion out of frustration as Michalek continued to hold Hall's stick. The circumstance surrounding this play, in part initiated by Zbynek Michalek's actions, is totally different from a player that takes a premeditated two handed swing at an opponent which would certainly be deemed worthy of a suspension.


Now I offer a blast from the past for Bill from Victoria. You might have been in attendance during a game at the old Victoria Memorial Arena in about 1974 when I grabbed Cougars coach Pat 'Patty' Ginnell after he stepped onto the ice with a hockey stick in his hands following a line brawl.  'Patty' was sliding along the boards on a direct path to attack Edmonton Oil Kings coach Ken Hodge on his bench, who was ready to defend with a stick in his hands as well! Fortunately 'Paddy' could not push back against me in his street shoes and I was able to talk him down and 'slide' the fiery coach to the exit as I ejected him from the game.

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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