Ask the Ref, 2011 edition

You may recall, late last season, we picked up on an occasional series that Canada’s TSN ran featuring recently-retired ref Kerry Fraser fielding questions from the public and offering his take on various issues.

It’s our pleasure to bring it back for another season.

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Hi Kerry,

On two occasions this past weekend, I saw two different players drop the gloves, throw some punches and on one occasion (Malkin) lose his jersey in the process. In both of these cases, the players were assessed roughing penalties. What weighs in the ref’s decision to not call a fighting major or to eject a player if his jersey is not tied down?

Thanks Ref,
Sonny Giroux

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Sonny, thank you for your question.

I can appreciate your confusion on this issue. In terms of fighting, the rule book offers that “The Referees are provided very wide latitude in the penalties with which they may impose. This is done intentionally to enable them to differentiate between the obvious degrees of responsibility of the participants either for starting the fighting or persisting in continuing the fighting. The discretion should be exercised realistically.”

So in applying that wide latitude what constitutes a five-minute major penalty for fighting as opposed to a minor or double minor penalty for roughing? The rule book defines fighting and roughing as follows:

Fighting (“…when at least one player punches or attempts to punch an opponent repeatedly or when two players wrestle in such a manner as to make it difficult for the Linesmen to intervene and separate the combatants”.)

Roughing (“…a punching motion with the hand or fist, with or without the glove on the hand, normally directed at the head or face of an opponent.”) I bet this really clears it up for you Sonny. Clear as mud, right? I hope some clarity for you will be found as I examine the typical escalation of an altercation.

Spontaneous combustion seldom occurs between two players to achieve a full blown fight other than perhaps in a “staged” fight between two willing combatants. (Do you ‘wanna’ go? Sure! Pow.) It is more likely however, that an altercation escalates before it becomes a main event.  (dfn: An altercation is a situation involving two players with at least on to be penalized.) Let’s take a closer look at the altercation involving Evgeni Malkin and Curtis Glencross that you referenced from the Saturday night Flames-Penguins game in an attempt to understand at least the theory behind the penalty assessment.

Malkin was carrying the puck out of his end zone when Lee Stempniak of the Flames slashed the stick out of Malkin’s hand for which play was stopped to assess a slashing penalty to Stempniak. Curtis Glencross of the Flames, in frustration of perhaps the penalty to be assessed, knocked Malkin’s stick away as the Penguin star forward was about to retrieve it. Malkin then pushed Glencross who retaliated with a slash to the shin pad of Malkin. At this juncture in the altercation Malkin used his gifted scoring touch for a well placed round house, glancing right hand (with his glove on) to the head of Glencross. The fuse was now lit, combustion was well underway and a fight was imminent.

If we freeze the action at this point (and in an effort to simplify things) Stempniak would receive a minor for the initial slash on Malkin’s stick, Glencross is assessed a minor for slashing Malkin on the shin pad and Malkin would receive a roughing minor for his round house right hand. (Knocking the stick away and the push would be considered a wash.)

The Pens would be on the power play for two minutes by virtue of the coincident minor penalty rule and the Flames would have Captain’s choice as to who would serve the minor on the clock. (Stempniak or Glencross.)

Continuing the action from the incident, Malkin and Glencross became entangled as players and the linesmen immediately rushed onto the scene. While Malkin dropped his gloves and was about to unload, it was only the excellent response by the two linesmen, Lonnie Cammeron and Don Henderson that prevented this altercation from being deemed a fight. Malkin’s attempted punches from in close hit nothing other than the extended forearm of linesman Cameron. The two potential combatants were quickly subdued and separated without any damage being done.

Since the altercation was not deemed to be a fight, no penalty would be warranted to Malkin for not having his jersey properly tied-down.  Also on this issue of tie-downs, if the linesmen were not quick to intervene and a fight had ensued and Glencross was identified as the instigator for banging the stick away followed by the slash to Malkin’s leg, then a game misconduct would not be assessed to Malkin for his jersey coming off his torso.

In summary, this altercation had all the makings of a main event fight but when the bell finally rang the linesmen in the ring prevented sufficient contact and sent them to their respective corners of the penalty box to cool off. I hope this washes some of the mud away for you Sonny.