Fraser: Can players leave the bench and not get penalized?

Kerry Fraser
12/13/2013 1:59:00 PM
Decrease Text SizeIncrease Text Size
Text Size

Got a question on rule clarification, comments on rule enforcements or some memorable NHL stories? Kerry wants to answer your emails at!

Hello Kerry,

Quick question about the Emelin/Downie elbowing incident from December 12th. While I'm sure it will be reviewed by the NHL for possible discipline, I'm wondering about something else that happened on the play.

The Flyers had seven players on the ice, 5 of which were trying to get at Emelin.

We've seen Clarkson (10 games) and Bissonnette (3 games) suspended this season for leaving the bench to enter an altercation.  Watching this play, it looks like Grossman comes directly from the bench to the scrum and heads right after Emelin.

Here's my head count:
#9 – Downie – On ice injured.
#5 – Coburn – Tending to Downie
# 19 – Hartnell – Scrumming
# 32 – Streit – Scrumming
# 44 – Timonen – Scrumming
# 8 – Grossman – Scrumming
# 14 – Couturier – Scrumming

None of the officials on ice noticed, or reacted to it.  No one was ejected and I haven't heard anything about it by the pundits this AM.

What's the procedure or protocol for something like this?

Should a defensive pair of the Flyers expect to hear from the NHL offices? 
I think Bissonnette (if not Clarkson) may be interested to know.




Thank you for the very astute analysis and resulting question in the aftermath of Steve Downie lowering his body posture to play the puck and being struck in the head with an elbow delivered by Alexei Emelin. The whistle was blown once Montreal gained puck possession in front of Carey Price as a result of the perceived injury sustained by Downie.

Paul Bissonnette and David Clarkson were suspended under Rule 70, the basis of which is that no player may leave the players' bench or penalty bench at any time during an altercation or for the purpose of starting an altercation. For a suspension to result, the player that left the bench (other than through a legal line change) must become actively involved in the altercation.

Thursday night in Philadelphia, players were legally allowed to come onto the ice from the players' bench once play was stopped and since a potential altercation (scrum) was not yet in progress. Braydon Coburn left the bench and went directly to Downie in advance of Flyers athletic therapist Jim McCrossin arriving on the scene. Coburn's defence partner and alternate captain, Kimmo Timonen appeared in the camera shot to question the referee after the minor scrum involving Emelin and Scott Hartnell had been dispersed by the linesmen. At no time did either Coburn or Timonen become involved with a Montreal player.

The Flyers defensive pairing of Mark Streit and Nicklas Grossmann were on the ice throughout the play and at the time of stoppage. Grossman's involvement in the 'scrum' was very minimal and if anything, he appeared to act as a peacemaker. It is important to note, Luke, no penalties were assessed (nor should they have been) as a result of this minor scrum and therefore no altercation officially took place!

If we hypothetically apply the scenario that an altercation did develop on this play, Coburn and Timonen would still not be subject to Rule 70 (Leaving the Bench) so long as they did not become involved in the altercation and ultimately assessed penalties.

What is really important to note in this situation is that linesman Scott Driscoll reported his version of the elbow infraction to both referees during the commercial timeout and the correct call was ultimately made. It was clear from the camera shot that Driscoll witnessed the infraction from his blue line position in real time and, as the closest official to the incident, Driscoll looked back toward the referee to see if he had seen the infraction. Since neither referee reacted to the illegal contact, another missed major infraction would have resulted.

I offer kudos to Driscoll for stepping up and making the correct call on this play. This is the "safety check" protocol which I wrote about in a recent column. Thanks to Driscoll, the process worked to perfection in Thursday night's game in Philadelphia.

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!

Follow Us!

There's a new Twitter feed that will make you a real insider! Follow to get updates on the latest blogs, best videos and more!

More about TSN on Twitter...

Cabbie on

New York-bred hip hop artist Action Bronson discusses his friendship with Kevin Love, his jumpshot, Mike Napoli's beard, obscure sports references and Derek Jeter's Brand Jordan commercial. More...

He has speed in his DNA, learn more about Olympic champion Donovan Bailey's nephew, Jaden and his success on the gridiron in the latest Powerade 24. More...

© 2017
All rights reserved.
Bell Media Television