Fraser: A look at 'intent' of Keith's high stick on Carter

Kerry Fraser
6/5/2013 2:09:20 PM
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I can't thank you enough for helping us understand how an official views, or should view, the game and enforce the rules.

My question is about the high sticking call against Duncan Keith on Jeff Carter.  My take on the play is this:  Both players are coming up the ice well behind the play.  They're likely sharing pleasantries and ultimately Carter slashes Keith.  Now angry and hurting from the slash Keith lets his emotions get the better of him and he delivers a wreckless and very dangerous "High Stick" (I would call it a slash) to Carter's face.  Carter suffers an injury and misses the ensuing power play.

As an official I would have given Carter a slashing minor and Keith a Match Penalty.  I justify the Match Penalty in that there is no other intent but to injure when you swing your stick at someone's head.  Accidental or not I feel Referee Furlatt (the referee following both players up the ice and who called the penalty) made a serious error in his assessment of a Double Minor for High Sticking.  This incident clearly transcended an accidental high stick.  It wasn't as severe a blow or injury suffered, but from the live view inside the arena I flashed back to McSorely and Brashaer.  I feel the league should suspend Keith for at least the remainder of the series if not longer as he's a repeat offender.

What was your take on the play and whether it deserves supplemental discipline?

PS: I think they should retire the No. 2 referee sweater and hang it in the HOF!

Derek May

Thank you very much for the kudos and being a loyal follower of C'mon Ref. You can also follow me on twitter (@kfraserthecall) for updates as these playoff games are being played.

I can appreciate your perspective on this play as you described Duncan Keith's actions with an eye to common sense and logic. Who could argue with your assertion that bringing/swinging a stick up into someone's head area is reckless and potentially dangerous? In this case, minor injury resulted with a gash to Jeff Carter's chin. If a play of this nature was to occur in youth hockey I could totally understand (and expect) why you would call a match penalty.

The fact of the matter is that a different standard of enforcement is most often applied in the NHL and other professional leagues.  Before everyone starts jumping all over this reality statement, I would like to share the thought process used to differentiate between varying degrees of stick related infractions up to a match penalty for a deliberate attempt to injure an opponent. It might be like shifting and change at the end of this business day but I provide anyway.

As I'm sure you would agree, proving "intent" can be a difficult task. Several factors are taken into account for this purpose. I want to focus on the degree or severity of contact along with the time element taken to deliver a blow in retaliation as two of the primary considerations.

In the setup of this confrontation between Duncan Keith and Jeff Carter, it began in front of the Chicago net when the two players initially came together. Carter brought his hands and stick up into the face of Keith and then clamped his arm down stripping the Hawks defenceman of his stick. Somewhere during the play, Duncan Keith lost his left glove where it came to rest in the middle of the Hawks' end zone. As Keith bent down to pick up the glove, Carter chopped down on the glove in close proximity to Duncan Keith's bare hand. While it is obvious the glove absorbed the brunt of Carter's stick contact, Keith's hand may have felt some residual effect. At this point we
examine Keith's reaction and method of retaliation.

With an absence of time delay Keith immediately straightened up and brought his stick up and around in a 'reflex' of retaliation with a one handed strike contacting Carter in the mouth. I say immediate because Keith had not yet taken the time to return the glove to his left hand. The one handed blow was certainly careless and demonstrates a poor decision made by Keith but the contact did not fall into the severe or excessive category that would typically result in a match penalty being assessed by a referee in the NHL. Keith's immediate reaction of remorse further demonstrates a lack of intent in an attempt to injure Jeff Carter through a premeditative strike.

Let me further demonstrate the "time factor" from a play that occurred in Game 6 of the Rangers-Capitals series when Mike Green deliberately cross-checked Derek Dorsett in the mouth resulting in a cut to the Rangers mouth.  A minor penalty was called on Green at 13:36 of the third period. I believe Green's actions fell into the match penalty category with a deliberate attempt to injure Dorsett given the length of time for Green to deliver the blow and the well placed location of the strike.

Mike Green was not suspended as the series moved to Game 7. On the play you might recall Derek Dorsett took Green into the boards with an attempted slew foot causing Green to hit the boards awkwardly but he remained upright on his skates. Dorsett on the other hand fell to the ice onto his back. In the time it took for Dorsett to get off his back and onto his knees, Mike Green turned and looked at the referee standing in the corner to see if a penalty was being called against Dorsett. When he saw the Ref's arm was not raised Green then turned his focus downward toward Dorsett, who was kneeling with his face fully exposed in front of the Caps defenceman. Mike Green then brought his stick up and deliberately cross-checked Derek Dorsett in the mouth with a downward blow. The time delay in this retaliation constitutes a deliberate attempt to injure as opposed to more of a 'reflex' action that Referee Eric Furlotte correctly judged in Duncan Keith's one handed high-stick motion.  

Note: Following the publication of this article, Keith was suspended for one game by the NHL.

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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