NHL’s Lack of Clarity in Penalty Calls Reaches New Levels in Bruins-Thrashers Donnybrook

NHL's Lack of Clarity in Penalty Calls Reaches New Levels in Bruins-Thrashers Donnybrook Anyone out there left scratching his or her head when the official scorer posted a three-minute penalty time for Milan Lucic after the Pier 6 brawl Thursday night? You’re not alone.

For quite a long time, we have been asking for clarity and explanation via the wireless microphones the referees wear. In fact, coincidentally enough, we asked for it last week in this very space.

If you call up the official game summary from the Bruins’ 4-1 thrashing of Atlanta, you’ll see a mass of penalties at 15:54 of the third period. The penalty timings are more easily understood if you match up the fighters to see which penalties canceled out each other.

Andrew Ference fought Anthony Stewart: five minutes each for fighting and game misconducts. Ference also got two minutes for roughing. Remember that one.

Nathan Horton and Evander Kane got five for fighting, each.

Marc Savard and Bryan Little got five for fighting and 10-minute misconduct penalties each.

Freddy Meyer got two minutes for elbowing and two minutes for roughing.

Milan Lucic got a 10-minute game misconduct and a 10-minute match penalty.

We can deduce this: The Ference two-minute roughing (that you have been remembering) and the Meyer roughing must have cancelled each other out, even though they were minors (no four-on-four) because of the other penalties in the same batch. Lucic’s match penalty for punching the rubber-kneed Meyer while the linesmen were engaged with the pair, although recorded as a 10-minute penalty, carried a penalty time of five minutes, according to rule 21.1 and rule 21.2.

21.1 Match Penalty — A match penalty involves the suspension of a player for the balance of the game and the offender shall be ordered to the dressing room immediately. A match penalty shall be imposed on any player who deliberately attempts to injure or who deliberately injures an opponent in any
manner.

21.2 Short-handed — A substitute player is permitted to replace the penalized player after five (5) minutes playing time has elapsed. The match penalty, plus any additional penalties, shall be served by a player (excluding a goalkeeper) to be designated by the Manager or Coach of the offending team through the playing Captain, such player to take his place in the penalty box immediately. For all match penalties, regardless of when imposed, or prescribed additional penalties, a total of ten minutes shall be charged in the records against the offending player.

That, combined with the following rule, seems to be the method by which the refs correctly arrived at the 3:00 penalty time.

19.4 Last Five Minutes and Overtime — During the last five (5) minutes of regulation time, or at any time in overtime, when a minor penalty (or double-minor penalty) is assessed to one player of Team A, and a major (or match) penalty is assessed to one player of Team B at the same stoppage of play, the three-minute (or one-minute) differential shall be served immediately as a major penalty. This is also applicable when coincidental penalties are negated, leaving the aforementioned examples. In such instances, the team of the player receiving the major penalty must place the replacement player in the penalty bench prior to expiration of the penalty. In the case of a match penalty, the team must place the replacement player in the penalty bench immediately. The differential will be recorded on the penalty clock as a three (3) minute or a one (1) minute penalty (as applicable), and served in the same manner as a major penalty. This rule shall be applied regardless as to the on-ice strength of the two teams at the time the above outlined penalties are assessed.

Man, the legalese is dense. But after a careful read it seems clear enough. Clear, but incredibly rare.

How rare? Mark Recchi has been in the NHL since the 1989 season and has played more than 1,600 games. He told us at the morning skate in Florida that he never had seen three minutes posted on a penalty clock. Clear public explanation of an unusual situation would have been interesting, informative and enlightening, don’t you think? All in all, what a well-served fan would hope to get from a league that lives largely off gate receipts?

So, on this Monday morning, we asked the NHL office for an explanation of Thursday’s situation, reiterating a request for the referees to use their wireless microphones to explain what’s going on, a la the NFL.

I’ll save you the details of the return message, but we’ll leave it at this: Not. Gonna. Happen. Soon.

Ah, well. They aren’t happy when we ask these questions (understatement, if you saw the vitriol in the return e-mail to yours truly) and are less happy when we ask them forcefully.

We aren’t asking if Mr. Nixon will resign; we’re only asking how the burglary laws are enforced and for a concise explanation of punishment being meted out.

Is that too much to ask? The answer from this regime is much more clear than any penalty-time explanation was last Thursday. Yes.

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