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Here is my qualm, which has been happening for quite some time now. When a player like John Scott clearly comes out to do damage, and targets the head of Loui Eriksson, why is Adam McQuaid awarded a penalty even though he technically did the right thing from a hockey perspective? I get that the rules are the rules, but when you were on the ice and saw something like that happen, wouldn't you rather 'punish' the offending party rather than call a foul on McQuaid who was simply sticking up for his teammate? I am not asking you to explain the letter of the law, rather I am asking whether refs have difficulty enforcing penalties even when they know they may not be the right call.
Your 'qualm' is with the playing rules and not the manner in which the Referees must enforce them!
Even though you don't care to accept the letter of the law you must understand that rules are in place to punish the "offending party" in all cases and to provide added player protection. Adam McQuaid is certainly a 'standup guy' but he must also be held accountable for his decision to instigate a fight.
John Scott was the initial offending party when he made a horrible decision to 'pick' the head of Loui Eriksson with a late hit. A referee raised his arm on the play and correctly identified the infraction as a match penalty under rule 48.5 for attempting to or deliberately injuring Eriksson. The assessment of a match is the most severe penalty in the book that a referee can impose. Scott was not only expelled from the game but was automatically suspended from further competition until the Commissioner (Player Safety Committee) has ruled on the issue. John Scott won't be returning to action any time soon! The Ref did his job and the Bruins would have received the benefit of a five-minute power-play had McQuaid not intervened at this point.
Please understand that when a match penalty is imposed on a play the only penalty that is dispensed with (not assessed) under the rules is the game misconduct that results from a "third man in" situation. All other player penalties (including the instigator of a fight) are to be imposed.
I totally understand what Adam McQuaid did in defence of his teammate, Loui Eriksson. I can think of several other Bruin players that would have done exactly the same thing had they been on the ice at the time or were able to get to Scott before McQuaid did. While many would applaud McQuaid for his response (perhaps even some guys in stripes; albeit silently) the Referees could not turn a 'blind eye' and allow a free pass to McQuaid for his obvious instigation of the fight.
That being said, if there was any possible leeway that could have been extended to McQuaid (had he been a little less obvious in his attack of Scott) I am most certain the Referees would have granted it. Based on Adam McQuaid's actions however the Ref was handcuffed in his ability to simply impose coincidental fighting majors or even an additional minor penalty to McQuaid for roughing instead of the instigator penalty (2 + 10). I have extended every possible courtesy to a player that came to the aid of his teammate like McQuaid did but only when afforded the opportunity to 'bend' a rule (benefit of the doubt) without completely compromising my integrity or that of the rules. It was much easier to do back then when there was no instigator rule to impose.
Adam McQuaid's subsequent actions are totally and accurately described in rule 46.11; (An instigator of an altercation shall be a player who by his actions or demeanor demonstrates any/some of the following criteria; distance travelled; gloves off first; first punch thrown; menacing attitude or posture; verbal instigation or threats; conduct in retaliation to a prior game (or season) incident; obvious retribution for a previous incident in the game or season.) Perhaps you might remember from a recent column where I said that when a penalty is to be assessed the "meter keeps running." Adam McQuaid started the meter for the Bruins when he took off after John Scott.
What you are really suggesting Bagoon ("right thing from a hockey perspective") is for the Referees to allow players to police themselves through vigilante rule. Believe me when I tell you I saw the effect of that far too many times during the '70's-'90's! Had this type of hit occurred during some of those eras, Scott would not only have been jumped by McQuaid but the entire Bruin bench would have vaulted over the boards to get at him; followed closely behind by the Sabres to pick a partner! I have witnessed 25 minute brawls on the ice and even under the stands. I for one don't want to go back to that storied element of hockey history.
Instead I want to see players punished severely and consistently for dangerous or deliberate hits to the head of an opponent to stop this madness. Hits such as these do not qualify under the banner of "tough" hockey but instead are designed to inflict punishment, deliberate injury and provide the potential to end a player's career or worse yet. The Game, the League and the Referees owe every player safe protection under the playing rules and through supplementary discipline.
Regardless of how Refs feel personally about a cheap shot they observe on the ice they must do their job and impose the appropriate penalties that result. Turning a 'blind eye' to obvious infractions; negative elements within the game; or a reckless attitude demonstrated by some players is not the answer.
Strict enforcement of the playing rules and suspensions are the only responsible position to take.