How many ways could a referee have called the Clayton Stoner hit a penalty?
1) Interference. Max didn’t have the puck, wasn’t eligible to be checked. That rules and application have mutated to the point where a player now has an official, objective 0.8 seconds to ‘finish his check’ is deplorable. I understand the concern that a player may be in the process of checking an opponent a split second before he releases the puck, and in such a case the hit is unavoidable. In Mr. Stoner’s case, however, he took two extra steps to get there.
In the NFL, there was a lot of handwringing about this fact, how Mean Joe Green or Jack Youngblood, when they were about to hit the quarterback, couldn’t halt their momentum suddenly, that some collisions were unavoidable. This turned out to be a non-issue.
The standard now is that if the quarterback has the ball you can hit him. Even if you hit him as he releases the ball, you can hit him as long as it’s simultaneous. If you get there a split second late though, you’re expected as a defensive player to hold up, to ease off so as to minimize the collision. The more time you have, the more you’re expected to do this, to the point where defensive players now kind of bear-hug and hold up the QB when they’re late, and prevent him from falling to the turf. If you’re very late, like more than a step, it gives you time to avoid any contact whatsoever.
There’s no objective time measure of this, it’s obvious when watching the game, as the refs see it, and as it’s recorded on video. The onus is on the defensive player to get there on time, or to not hit the QB. In that grey area, the defensive player does his best to not give the QB an extra shot, to err on the side of caution, since the refs will definitely have an itchy flag itching to fly out.
2) Hit in the back. We can get into an ‘angels on the head of a pin’ argument here, but I’ll submit that Max was hit in the back. I’ll understand a Ducks fan for countering that the hit was on the side 7/8ths or whatever.
To say that Max was “admiring his pass” is the ludicrous stance of the truculence brigade. Max just made a pass to a teammate and wants to know if it’s coming back to him, if it’s going to the other point, so he can react accordingly. If he constantly has to have his head on a swivel to prevent getting mugged by Mark Stuart or Eric Gryba with a claymore, then we might as well dig foxholes in the ice and bring in the armour. Max was trying to make a play with the puck, the Ducks defenceman was scrambling to lay the lumber.
Rule 59 – Cross-checking
59.1 Cross-checking – The action of using the shaft of the stick between the two hands to forcefully check an opponent.
59.2 Minor Penalty – A minor penalty, at the discretion of the Referee based on the severity of the contact, shall be imposed on a player who “cross checks” an opponent.
59.3 Major Penalty – A major penalty, at the discretion of the Referee based on the severity of the contact, shall be imposed on a player who “cross checks” an opponent (see 59.5).
59.4 Match Penalty – The Referee, at his discretion, may assess a match penalty if, in his judgment, the player attempted to or deliberately injured his opponent by cross-checking.
59.5 Game Misconduct Penalty – When a major penalty is assessed for cross-checking, an automatic game misconduct penalty shall be imposed on the offending player.
59.6 Fines and Suspensions – When a major penalty is imposed under this rule, an automatic fine of one hundred dollars ($100) shall also be imposed.
If deemed appropriate, supplementary discipline can be applied by the Commissioner at his discretion (refer to Rule 28).
4) Boarding. What Clayton Stoner did easily qualifies as boarding.
A boarding penalty shall be imposed on any player or goalkeeper who checks or pushes a defenseless opponent in such a manner that causes the opponent to hit or impact the boards violently in the boards. The severity of the penalty, based upon the impact with the boards, shall be at the discretion of the Referee.
Some will say that I’m living in a dreamworld if I think hockey will be refereed the way I describe it should be. And I am. I do dream of an NHL which features skill and speed and offence and spectacular tic-tac-toe goals, while still providing lots of contact and thrills. But it won’t happen until the NHL GM’s and the head office relax their stranglehold on the neck of the sport they purport to love.