Fraser: How referees sort out penalties after brawls

Kerry Fraser
4/25/2013 3:52:28 PM
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Hey Kerry,
So obviously last night's events after the game between the Armada and Baie-Comeau in the QMJHL gave those refs a nightmare amount of paper work! My question to you is how do refs sort that out?
Obviuosly you can't give everyone penalties/majors so how do they decide who gets penalized? And do the coaches get penalized for not holding their bench after a game?
Clayton Brown


Before I address your question, I want to re-post an update I made late Wednesday after receiving word that Dustin Brown had been suspended for two games for elbowing Jason Pominville in the event that many of you visited the column earlier in the day and failed to see it. Footage of the play that I received to look at was akin to making a call from poor position on the trapezoid line! It is important that I set the record straight after viewing the footage attached below from the Player Safety Committee.

C'mon Ref Update: Dustin Brown suspended for two games by the Player Safety Committee

Upon seeing this replay angle of the Dustin Brown elbow for the very first time as posted on, I was clearly wrong in my answer to Jonathan and the rest of you on this play. For that I apologize.

There is absolutely no doubt from this angle that Brown clearly knew what he was doing and deliberately elbowed Jason Pominville in the face. I fully concur with the two-game suspension handed down by the Player Safety Committee for this illegal and dangerous elbow. They thankfully got it right — I didn't!


To your question Clayton, this was a very unfortunate and nasty brawl that took place well after the game had ended and provided a black eye to the game and league. Players typically come over the boards at the final buzzer and are entitled to do so as long as there isn't an altercation in progress.

At the final buzzer, two players from Baie-Comeau (white jerseys) were working over #18 from the game-winning, home team Blainville-Boisbriand Armada against the end zone half wall. The retribution would likely have ended with the final buzzer had not #18 incited the brawl by his gestures to the fans to 'raise the roof'. These gestures were no different than waving a red flag in front a bull as players from the Baie-Comeau Drakkar took up the charge.

The QMJHL will determine if this event was a continuation of an altercation that began prior to the end of the game or if it was in fact incited after the final buzzer. They will also determine the extent of any fines and suspensions that are warranted as a result of the actions by the players and coaches under their rules and bylaws.

Kudos to my old friend, Coach Joel Bouchard of the Armada who stepped onto the ice to herd his players to their dressing room and thereby greatly assisted the officials in bringing an end to the brawl before a player became seriously injured.

In the NHL, any teams whose players become involved in an altercation other than during the periods or the game, are fined $25,000. Players involved in fighting are assessed a major and game misconduct. Any player deemed to be an instigator at a time other than during the periods of the game shall be suspended automatically for 10 games.
As you can see by the video, it is impossible for four officials to break up multiple fight situations that erupt when a brawl takes place. The very first thing that this officiating crew did correctly was to identify #18 in the black jersey as a lightning rod for player hostilities and attempted to usher him away as quickly as possible. The problem was the Armada bench/dressing room was on the opposite side of the ice and it was impossible to contain the mob that wanted a piece of anyone wearing a black jersey at this point. Number 18 was the first player the linesmen wisely escorted off the ice.

Once multiple fights broke out, you saw one referee reach into his back pocket and pull out a pencil and notepad. He would be writing down the pairings of combatants by sweater number in two columns; home and away.  He would also be recording anything beyond just fighting majors that would include a "third man in" (gang warfare) or look for a match penalty, use of a stick, blocker or any deliberate attempt to injure a player that might result.

The referees would itemize and prioritize the fights that broke out, along with any other serious infractions they witnessed, to be recorded on the penalty sheet following the brawl and from within the safety of the officials room. You are correct, Clayton, that not everything will be called; only the major stuff. There was plenty for the referees to pick from in this brawl, as in usually the case.

The linesmen did a very good job in working as a pair, wherever possible, to separate two combatants and quickly usher them off the ice before moving to the next most aggressive altercation. They looked like "worker bees" buzzing into the fights.

When something such as this breaks out (trust me when I tell you I have been involved in many far worse than this one), it is important that the referee(s) remain as calm as possible to identify the major infractions and combatants. Player safety becomes a primary focus for all of the officials on the ice. If any official observes a player taking a severe beating, he must put his pencil away and go the aid of that player that is in jeopardy. Once you lay your hands on a player, the first objective is to separate him from the altercation. When that is executed, you want to skate that player off the ice as quickly as possible so he doesn't resume or engage in another fight.

To solicit player cooperation, you first attempt to talk some reason into the player. If that fails, I made sure I told the player I was writing the report when this was all over and if he didn't comply, I would do my very best to make sure he got a lengthy suspension! That usually worked.

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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