Fraser: The diving call on Montreal's Brandon Prust

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Kerry Fraser
1/30/2013 2:28:44 PM
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Got a question on rule clarification, comments on rule enforcements or some memorable NHL stories? Kerry Fraser wants to answer your emails at cmonref@tsn.ca!

Hi Kerry!

I know that referees have a rough job and that they will make mistakes. But there are times I just don't understand what I see, and thought maybe you could give me your take on one particular call.

On Tuesday in the Montreal/Winnipeg game, Brandon Prust got called for diving when he was (in my opinion) hit from behind into the boards in front of the bench. Look I admit there is diving - and moreover - there is a lot of embellishment on hits/tripping/hooking and referees need to take that into consideration. But in a time when the NHL is trying to cut down on dangerous plays, calling diving on a hit from behind is just negligent.

If the ref had a problem with Prust's reaction, then just don't call the check. Calling Prust for diving when he is pushed from behind is just inviting trouble.

So Kerry, what's your take on this play?

Greg Eamer

Greg: I agree you in one sense - I just don't understand what I saw! Our reasoning however is vastly different.

The contact/check that Nik Antropov delivered on Brandon Prust was definitely not a check from behind (dangerous hit) and in my judgment not even worthy of a boarding minor! Given the fact that neither referee appeared to react or raise an arm to call a penalty initially, I am left to believe that boarding and diving penalties were manufactured in hindsight after David Desharnais went after Antropov.

Brandon Prust set himself squarely to the boards in front of his players' bench and dished the puck back into his end zone. Prust took a peak over his shoulder and was aware of the impending contact from Antropov. Once Prust felt the contact from behind, he utilized some 'spring' in his legs to generate additional velocity toward the boards. After contacting the boards Prust bent his upper body forward into his players' bench.

This is what Rule 41 - Boarding states regarding the body position that Brandon Prust placed himself in:

"However, in determining whether such contact could have been avoided,  (by Antropov) the circumstances of the check, including whether the opponent (Prust) put himself in a vulnerable position immediately prior to or simultaneously with the check or whether the check was unavoidable can be considered. This balance must be considered by the Referees when applying this rule."

Brandon Prust altered his position immediately prior to the check and was fully aware of the impending contact that was to be delivered by Nik Antropov.

This contact was not of sufficient force to cause Prust 'to be thrown violently into the boards' as the language in the rule requires for a penalty to be assessed.

Now let us now examine Brandon Prust's reaction following the contact and after he springs forward and bends into the Montreal bench. Prust released his stick and threw it into the bench, fell to the ice in a heap after extracting his upper body from over the boards and lay motionless for a couple of seconds before getting up on his own steam and taking a place on the Montreal bench.
 
Rule 64.1 Diving/Embellishment - Any player who blatantly dives, embellishes a fall or a reaction, or who feigns an injury shall be penalized with a minor penalty under this rule.

The diving/embellishment rule appropriately describes Brandon Prust's overreaction to the degree of contact that was delivered by Nik Antropov. I recognize that Prust was most likely motivated to draw a penalty for his team after just having served his minor for goalkeeper interference on Winnipeg goalie Ondrej Pavelec.

The Referees appeared content to allow play to continue without a boarding penalty to Antroprov or an initial diving call on Prust. This decision changed once they were forced to stop play when David Desharnais initiated a scrum with Antropov. 

Once play was stoppedv the better course of action for the Referees to take would have been to stick with their initial decision on the body check at the Montreal players' bench and to just assess a roughing minor to Desharnais.

Prior to this occurring, the best course of action would have been to penalize Brandon Prust for diving/embellishment in a 'stand alone' penalty. If David Desharnais initiated a scrum following this he should also be penalized for roughing at which point Montreal would play two men short.

The diving/embellishment epidemic must be addressed as it detracts from the game.

Brandon Prust (Photo: Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)
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