Fraser: Looking at Jared Cowen's hit on Pavel Datsyuk

Kerry Fraser
11/27/2013 1:54:29 PM
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Hi Kerry,
In Saturday's game between Detroit and Ottawa, some Red Wing players - especially Pavel Datsyuk - were the recipients of some vicious checking by Ottawa.
Late in the game, Datsyuk received an elbow to the jaw from Jared Cowen. Datsyuk will miss at least two games and possibly more. The NHL described the hit as accidental and stated that Cowen will not be punished. If we want to clean up the game and protect star players as the NHL professes to do, are they not being hypocritical - especially when hits to the head occur? Perhaps the impending law suit might awaken them from their slumber?
Tony Boodhoo, Ingersoll
Hey Kerry,
As a former amateur official, I always enjoy your articles. Wondering about your take on the non-call on Jared Cowen's elbow/forearm to the chin of Pavel Datsyuk.  Looked to me to be a clear fly by elbow from Cowen as he skated by Datsyuk who had pulled up along the boards. I assume the on-ice officials did not see it has it was quick and sneaky, but no doubt deliberate.  I don't understand why there was no discipline from Player Safety.  Datsyuk has missed two games as of this email waiting for symptoms to clear.  Isn't this the kind of gratuitous and deliberate head shot the League is trying to remove from the game, coincidentally on the eve of the concussion class action suit?  Thanks for your thoughts and keep up the good work. 
David W. Barton
Hi Kerry,
Can you help the hockey world understand how Jared Cowen's elbowing Pavel Datsyuk in the face was neither penalized on the ice and was not suspended for it?  Datsyuk has what appears to now be a concussion, missing his second game.  The league has made an issue of hits to the head, and this to me appears as blatant as they come.  If you haven't seen it, here it is:
Pavel is a several time Lady Byng winner, and one of the best players in the world, and the message sent from the league is it's open season again on star players.  I just don't get it anymore with these attempts to injure and non calls.
Tom from Los Angeles
Tony, David and Tom:

By describing Jared Cowen's extended elbow on this play as 'accidental,' we are led to believe that Cowen didn't intend to make contact with Pavel Datsyuk's chin/head. That might be the case, since no one other than Jared Cowen knows his true intention. The penalty was most likely missed by the referee since the hit was late and well after Datsyuk had dished the puck up the wall to Brendan Smith at the point. This resulted in a natural shift in the ref's focus of attention.

A more detailed explanation of the incident and utilizing language from Rule 48.1 (iii) to describe why a suspension did not result from the play might go something like this:

Jared Cowen set up to attempt a legal shoulder check on Pavel Datsyuk. Datsyuk became aware of the impending contact and materially changed the position of his body (stopping/pulling up) and his head (dropped/lowered) prior to or simultaneously with the hit in a way that significantly contributed to the head contact.  Jared Cowen recognized that his intended legal contact was going to be avoided by Pavel Datsyuk's material change in body/head position and Cowen extended his elbow thereby striking Datsyuk in the head.

The Player Safety Committee might have concluded that Jared Cowen extended his elbow in a reflex move and as a byproduct of Pavel's last second avoidance to being hit thereby deeming it accidental. We know from previously broadcast decisions the language of Rule 48 is often referred to and utilized as a reference and guideline by the PSC.

I say it's time to alter the thought process in situations such as this. No matter how you spin it, the irrefutable evidence is that Pavel Datsyuk's head became the sole point of contact when Jared Cowen made a poor decision to extend his elbow and delivered the late, illegal contact. Datsyuk sustained an injury resulting from Cowen's elbow to the head.

The wrong message is sent to the rank and file when players are not held accountable and avoid suspension for hits to the head of an opponent similar to this incident. It also matters not whether the injured player is a Lady Byng Trophy winner and a star performer in the NHL.

All players are entitled to equal protection and their safety reasonably and responsibly provide for. 

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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