Fraser: Would you like 5-on-4 for four or 5-on-3 for two?

Kerry Fraser
10/9/2013 3:18:31 PM
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Got a question on rule clarification, comments on rule enforcements or some memorable NHL stories? Kerry wants to answer your emails at!

Hi Kerry!
I enjoy your responses to the questions/comments put before you. I have an interference question.
I am very often puzzled as to why forcing someone offside at the attacking blueline is not considered interference, resulting in a minor penalty.
It disrupts play every bit as much as an icing. Like firing the puck over the glass, it may or may not be intentional, but the result is the same - stopping play. Could situations like these become a discretionary decision by a linesman where an advantage is given and no offside is called?
Thanks Kerry,
Tony McKeon, Leaf fan in Kelowna

The truth of the matter is forcing a player offside at the blue line is an interference violation found in rule 56.2: "A minor penalty shall be imposed on a player who shall cause an opponent who is not in possession of the puck to be forced off-side, causing a stoppage of play. If this action causes a delayed off-side (and not necessarily a stoppage in play), then the application of a penalty for interference is subject to the judgment of the Referee."

The first line of the rule is very definitive stating a minor penalty shall be assessed (not might or maybe). These strong words however have little bite when it comes to the application and standard of enforcement of this rule. There is often reluctance on the part of the Refs to apply this penalty unless the interference is extreme and obvious in nature. Incidental contact along the blue line should never be called but a deliberate bump or push to place an attacker in an offside position that causes a stoppage of play should (shall) always be called.

An expectation placed on the Officials by the majority of the hockey world is for them to identify and call "good penalties" by utilizing "sound judgment".  The unspoken word that the official is left with is to determine what a "good" penalty is? On a scale of one to ten, pushing a player offside might not come close to the value of a trip, high-stick or obvious major infraction. Thoughts like this can play with the Officials head and affect his judgment. Ask yourself if this is a "penalty" that would want called late in a game or overtime? Some might say, "A penalty is a penalty" while others espouse, "Let them play and don't call the 'ticky-tacky' stuff!"

Whatever position you choose to take I can tell you that the players will break any and every rule that they are allowed to get away with. The best deterrent for players to adhere to the rules is the fear that the Referee will call a penalty when they cross the line.

When the Refs demonstrate sound judgment and enforce the rules (no matter the score or time in the game) we need to support them; even if it's calling an interference penalty for pushing a player off-side and causing a stoppage in play!

I also received a question this morning from a friend of mine down here in Philadelphia Flyer country. I wish to include my answer here for those that might have been watching the Flyers-Panthers game last night.


I hope all is well with you. I have a question for you about something that happened last night in the Flyers-Panthers game, officiated by Kelly Sutherland (one of the best in the business today, in my opinion) and Darcy Burchell.

In case you didn't see the game, here's a brief synopsis. Philadelphia's Jay Rosehill was called for a delayed-penalty roughing minor behind the play. The Flyers touched up for the stoppage and Rosehill started to skate toward the penalty box. As he did, a fracas ensued at centre ice. Rosehill saw it, left the box and jumped into the scrum.

After Sutherland and Burchell conferred with each other, they skated over to Flyers' head coach Craig Berube. According to Berube, he was given a choice between a four-minute 5-on-4 or a two-minute 5-on-3. (Rosehill also got a 10-minute misconduct in addition to a pair of separate roughing minors and there were offsetting minors to Philly's Zac Rinaldo and Florida's Tomas Kopecky).

My question to you: Was this handled correctly by Sutherland and Burchell? Was there ever a circumstance where you gave a coach a choice between penalties? Berube said after the game that he does not recall that happening before in his career.

Bill Meltzer

Hi Bill:

I have had the same situation more than once during my career. When multiple minor penalties are assessed at the same stoppage of play to players of both teams the option presented to the coach is which minor penalty he would want to be eliminated (sawed off) for purpose of the coincidental minor penalty rule.

If Berube preferred to play 5-on-3 for two minutes versus a man down for four minutes, Referee Kelly Sutherland would have treated one of Jay Rosehill's minor penalties as coincidental with Tomas Kopeky's minor penalty. That would have left Zac Rinaldo and Rosehill serving one minor each for the Flyers on the clock.

By choosing the more obvious option (Zac Rinaldo's minor penalty was treated as coincidental with Tomas Kopecky's minor) the Flyers were left to play one man short for four minutes as a result of Jay Rosehill's double minor penalty. Rosehill's double minor would then be placed on the game time clock.
I have never seen a coach prefer the 5-on-3 but the choice is theirs to make.

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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