Fraser: When to blow a play dead on a frozen puck

Kerry Fraser
5/29/2013 2:26:24 PM
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Hey Kerry,
Love your insight!
So I'm sitting here enjoying the last minutes of the L.A./San Jose Game 7.
So why is the play not blown dead anymore if the puck gets frozen against the boards and a scrum can't dislodge the puck? I remember in the past it seemed that if you froze the puck on the boards and it can't/doesn't come free the play would be blown dead. I just watched a five-player scrum (with 5:30 left in third) and the puck was clearly frozen - yet no whistle.
Why not?
John A. Baluta


I present two philosophies that go hand in hand and can best be achieved when play is forced to continue.

i) The game is most exciting and appealing when there are long periods of sustained action;

ii) A Referee's best friend is a moving puck.

The first premise is pretty much a given. Everyone (players, coaches, play-by-play commentators, and fans) really gets into the game when 'flow and go' is the order of business. Game tempo increases and players usually give and receive hits without retaliation as they are forced to keep up with the speed and sustained action. I would often witness the positive benefits and enhanced entertainment value that resulted from continuous play generated through three plus minutes of action without a whistle. It wasn't just by accident as I forced play to continue whenever I could.

Even in tight checking games I found that play generally opened when frequent changes on the fly had to be implemented by the teams. The rapid rotation of playing personnel over the boards forced everyone to remain focused and in the game.

It was also my experience that, as player hostilities intensified, the 'crap' happened after the whistle blew. Scrums and fights can easily become a byproduct of a stoppage in play.  Many times I witnessed a scrum in progress only to be disbanded when no whistle resulted and the players were forced to rejoin the action. 

A player (or players) from the defending team is generally guilty of trying to stop play by freezing the puck. This attempt is frequently done to relieve the pressure, to gain a line change at the end of a long shift, during a penalty kill or if he finds him team in a vulnerable position. We don't allow a player to dump the puck over the boards or fall on or gather the puck into his body to gain a stoppage in play. This action would result in a delay of game penalty. Why then would we allow one player to deliberately attempt to stop play by freezing the puck?

To add to the good judgment the Officials utilized last night to force play to continue is the fact that one player, Andrew Desjardins of the Sharks attempted to freeze the puck in the neutral zone directly in front of the LA Kings players' bench. The Kings players were trying to dig the puck loose and keep play moving.  As more players joined the scrum, should the whistle have been blown a confrontation between players on the ice and those on the bench was a possibility. No player(s) were in a position to charge in from a distance so the Refs wisely forced play to continue.

This is the real-time action on the play you reference:

5:54 - Sharks Andrew Desjardins holds puck against the boards in front of the LA Kings bench and with the linesman sitting on the boards directly in front of Desjardins outside the Kings blue line. Colin Fraser immediately seals Desjardins with contact from behind. Four LA Kings are seen standing up on the bench close to Desjardins and the action.

5:51 - Logan Couture supports Desjardins attempt to freeze the puck or advance it into the Kings zone if it became available from the San Jose end position.

5:49 - Kings Dustin Penner joins the puck battle on Couture from the left while Tyler Toffoli attempts to move Desjardins off the puck from the right side. This is where the bulk of the scrum takes place with Sharks attempting to gain a stoppage and the Kings trying to keep play moving by bumping Desjardins and his stick off the puck.

5:43 - The puck becomes exposed and Tyler Toffoli gains the red line and shoots the puck into the Sharks end zone.

5:12 - Play continues with a Shark rush and attack until the Kings are guilty of icing the puck. Off the ensuing end zone face-off Joe Pavelski had a golden scoring opportunity to tie the game but failed to elevate the puck
over the outstretched glove of Jonathan Quick.

For all these reasons John a moving puck once again became the Ref's best friend!

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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