Fraser: Looking at Tom Wilson's hit on Brayden Schenn

Kerry Fraser
12/18/2013 1:33:07 PM
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Hi Kerry,
During Tuesday night's Pens/Caps game, Tom Wilson got a five-minute penalty for charging Brayden Schenn. Nicklas Grossmann then turned and started a fight with Wilson. Despite not having to travel any distance, he clearly threw the first punch, had the gloves off first and fought him as 'retribution' for a previous incident in the game or season, all of which would be grounds for an instigator penalty. Yet none was given.
Why wasn't there one given?
Kyle Reid
What is your take on the Wilson hit on Schenn from Washington vs. Philadelphia game? Some say 100 per cent clean hit and others say it's a suspension!
Thanks for reading!
Bob Haynes 

Kyle and Bob:

Following the devastating and violent hit that Tom Wilson delivered on Brayden Schenn it was actually Wilson that dropped his gloves first to be at the ready in anticipation of the Flyers cavalry that was guaranteed to charge.

Nicklas Grossmann moved toward the Caps player with gloves and stick in hand. Wilson's gloves hit the ice. Even when the two players locked on Grossmann's gloves were still evident on his hands as Wilson attempted to throw some punches from tight quarters. In spite of the fact that Grossmann approached Wilson following the hit (minimal distance travelled) - but more based on Wilson's quick response mentioned above - the Referee appropriately deemed an instigator penalty was not warranted.

Bob, this was a 100 per cent illegal hit. Tom Wilson approached Brayden Schenn with excessive speed from a considerable distance which results in a charging violation (Rule 42.1 - Charging shall mean the actions of a player who, as a result of distance travelled, shall violently check an opponent in any manner). Even though Schenn took a peek and simultaneously made a slight turn to avoid the contact, Wilson actually accelerated in the last eight-to-10 feet, rendering the Flyer player virtually defenceless. The accelerated speed and extra finish that Wilson exerted through the hit caused Schenn to crash violently into the end boards with significant impact to Schenn's head.

A boarding violation also occurred on this play (Rule 41.1 - A boarding penalty shall be imposed on any player who checks or pushes a defenseless opponent in such a manner that causes the opponent to hit or impact the boards violently or dangerously. The severity of the penalty, based on the impact with the boards, shall be at the discretion of the Referee).

I would hope every referee in the league would exercise their most responsible discretion and deem Schenn's impact with the boards as violent and excessive resulting in a major and game misconduct being assessed on this play.

Potential suspension - who knows? Rule 41 goes on to say that, "The onus is on the player applying the check to ensure his opponent is not in a defenceless position and if so, he must avoid or minimize contact."

Tom Wilson was committed beyond just making the hit, as proven by the acceleration and finish factor on the play. There was no consideration given to avoid Schenn or to slow down and minimize contact. It was full speed ahead!

Let me highlight the 'escape clause' in the rule when consideration is given to whether a suspension is warranted on dangerous hits such as this. From Rule 41.1, "However, in the determining whether such contact could have been avoided, the circumstances of the check, including whether the opponent put himself in a vulnerable position immediately prior to or simultaneously with the check or whether the check  was unavoidable can be considered."

Schenn snuck a peek an instant before impact and recognized a missile in the form of Tom Wilson was hunting him down. This caused Schenn to veer slightly or attempt to turn as an avoidance tactic.  The Player Safety Committee will give strong consideration to this element of the play in defense of Tom Wilson's actions.

At least in this case, the ambiguity written into rule places considerable and undue responsibility on the victim of such a violent hit.  Given Schenn's location from the boards, the extended distance Tom Wilson travelled and the speed, velocity and force generated by this hit I believe a similar outcome would have occurred regardless of Brayden Schenn's minimal attempt to avoid contact.

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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