• Meet the new boss

    by  • December 6, 2011 • Hockey • 21 Comments

    When Brendan Shanahan first started issuing videos to explain his decisions, I wondered for how long it would last. While I think it’s great, the problem with doing it is that you end up building a library of precedents, in which people can pick apart your reasoning. This is a problem for the NHL, where discipline has traditionally factored in such things as “was the offending player a star?” and “how much stink are we getting?

    Precedents can be an awkward thing. For one, when you start to explain your rationale, people can do comparisons on other decisions to see whether your rationale holds up. If you aren’t careful, you start to look ridiculous. Possibly related to that, Brendan Shanahan issued a video rationale for his decision to suspnd Jordin Tootoo for two games. Shanahan said:

    After Tootoo makes his decision to drive the net and has the puck knocked off his stick, Tootoo peeks up and sees Miller in his crease and in his path. Although Ehrhoff does make body contact, we do not feel it was significant enough that it altered Tootoo’s path into Ryan Miller. The onus, therefore, is on Tootoo to avoid or, at the very least, minimize his contact with the goaltender.

    An aside: I have no idea where this idea that a player coming towards the crease has the onus to avoid or minimize contact with the goalie. I don’t see it in the rules anywhere. It’s not found in the charging goal. I’m not saying it’s not a legitimate thing to legislate, only that it’s news to me that this is a rule. Collisions between players and goalies happen all the time when players drive the net or lose an edge or something. Is Shanahan asserting that players are under some sort of duty to take care around the net? It’s all new to me.


    This is the the photo on the screen that Shanahan is referring to when he says “Tootoo peeks up.” I’m going to come back to this but note where Ehrhoff’s stick is. Tootoo is, what, five feet away from Miller at this point? And Miller is sort of half-in, half-out of his crease?

    Let’s compare this to when Lucic first noticed Miller. If you watch the video in full, you notice something interesting – Lucic stops skating before he even gets to the circle. He’s just finishing his last stride in the picture below.


    I’m pretty sure I know why Lucic stopped skating: he saw Miller and knew he wasn’t going to get to the puck. If he thinks that Miller’s in the net and the puck is loose, he’s going to be hell bent for leather. Have you ever, in your life, seen a situation in which an attacking player has twenty feet of space on a back checker and just sort of moseys towards a loose puck? It doesn’t happen.

    If you accept that Lucic sees Miller at that point, we’re talking about him being at least twenty feet away. It looks to me, in the standard broadcast shot, like his head comes up at that point, but you can’t really tell for sure on the broadcast. The decision to stop skating is, to me, the smoking gun.

    I mentioned Ehrhoff’s stick up above. You get a better shot at it here. You can see that, in swinging his stick to knock the puck off Tootoo’s stick, he got his stick around Tootoo and, given that he was so close to the goalie, the stick then becomes jammed on Miller’s right side, while Ehrhoff holds the knob in his hand. Tootoo is effectively trapped.


    You can also see how Tootoo’s feet are angled as he’s trying to cut to the net. With all of his weight trying to come out front, and Ehrhoff’s stick effectively preventing him from getting out to the front of the net, he has, in my view, nowhere to go.


    It gets weirder.

    While we believe that Tootoo’s motivation on this play was to attempt to score, and not to hit Miller, the fact remains that it is the attacking player’s responsibility to make a better effort not to crash directly into the opposing goaltender. The goaltender must feel protected in his crease. It should be noted that interference with a goalkeeper can be penalized with a minor. There will be times when the contact with the goaltender and the call on the ice will be suitable for the offence. However, we feel the on-ice call of charging and a game misconduct for this particular offence was correct and that the supplemental discipline was necessary because of the force of the collision and the lack of any significant interference steering Tootoo into the goaltender.

    Again: no idea where this responsibility on the part of the attacking player to make a better effort not to run into him accidentally comes from. As explained above, I think Shanahan’s wrong about the lack of interference. I think the move that he’s expecting Tootoo to have made is a bit much. When you watch the video, you can tell what Tootoo was trying to do – he was trying to bring the puck across the front of the net. His bodyweight is going that direction and it’s taken away from him and then he gets jammed with Ehrhoff’s stick.

    Leave that aside though. Let’s deal with the assertion that the call was correct. Here’s the charging rule:

    42.1 Charging – A minor or major penalty shall be imposed on a player who skates or jumps into, or charges an opponent in any manner.

    Charging shall mean the actions of a player who, as a result of distance traveled, shall violently check an opponent in any manner. A “charge” may be the result of a check into the boards, into the goal frame or in open ice.

    A minor, major or a major and a game misconduct shall be imposed on a player who charges a goalkeeper while the goalkeeper is within his goal crease.

    A goalkeeper is not “fair game” just because he is outside the goal crease area. The appropriate penalty should be assessed in every case where an opposing player makes unnecessary contact with a goalkeeper. However, incidental contact, at the discretion of the Referee, will be permitted when the goalkeeper is in the act of playing the puck outside his goal crease provided the attacking player has made a reasonable effort to avoid such contact.

    42.2 Minor Penalty – The Referee, at his discretion, may assess a minor penalty, based on the degree of violence of the check, to a player guilty of charging an opponent.

    42.3 Major Penalty – The Referee, at his discretion, may assess a major penalty, based on the degree of violence of the check, to a player guilty of charging an opponent (see 42.5).

    42.4 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 charging.

    42.5 Game Misconduct Penalty – When a major penalty is imposed under this rule for a foul resulting in an injury to the face or head of an opponent, a game misconduct shall be imposed.

    OK – so we can understand both the Lucic and Tootoo penalties as being the referee exercising his discretion to assess penalties based on the degree of violence of the check. (This of course, requires you accept that Tootoo checked Miller, as opposed to just ran into him because he had nowhere else to go.) What’s baffling though is the game misconduct for Tootoo. Miller didn’t leave the game. His helmet doesn’t seem to have been knocked off. He doesn’t even seem to have gone to the bench. Shanahan actually says in the suspension video that there’s no apparent injury.

    Where, then, is the injury that warrants the game misconduct? The rules are clear that the referee has discretion to give a minor, major or match – there doesn’t seem to be any discretion for him to give a game misconduct unless there’s an injury. How can that call be correct?

    (See Dirk’s comments below. He has convinced me that I misunderstood the rule. *Mutters darkly about sloppy drafting.* I still don’t get how this is a suspension and Lucic wasn’t.)

    The answer to all of this, of course, is that it’s nonsense. Milan Lucic is a marquee player, Jordin Tootoo is a spare part. The referees were aware of all the light and sound after the Lucic thing, because they pay attention. Tootoo has a reputation as a rouser of rabbles. New boss. New videos. Same decision making.


    21 Responses to Meet the new boss

    1. Garnet
      December 6, 2011 at

      I really wish they had gotten someone from outside the NHL to make these judgements. As thoughtful and respected as Shanahan is, he’s steeped in the culture you’re talking about; he just gives it a bit of respectability, for a while. He’s going to come away from this with his sterling reputation dented a bit.

    2. dawgbone
      December 6, 2011 at

      I have no idea where this idea that a player coming towards the crease has the onus to avoid or minimize contact with the goalie.


      Rule 69.1

      If an attacking player has been pushed, shoved, or fouled by a defending player so as to cause him to come into contact with the goalkeeper, such contact will not be deemed contact initiated by the attacking player for purposes of this rule, provided the attacking player has made a reasonable effort to avoid such contact.

      The whole problem your defense here is that it assumes that the only path was through the crease. It wasn’t. Tootoo could have gone around the net. He’s played hockey long enough that he should know how the rink is shaped. Hell I play hockey once a week and I sure as hell know how the rink is shaped.

      As to your other point (Lucic vs Tootoo), I agree. If this is a suspension so is the Lucic hit.

    3. cdr
      December 6, 2011 at

      Well, what changed between the time of the Lucic hit and the Tootoo hit? The GM meetings at which the majority of the league’s GM’s indicated to Shannahan that they thought Lucic should have been suspended and that they wanted goalies to be better protected.

      • Tyler Dellow
        December 6, 2011 at

        If the answer is “We treat the rules differently now” all Shanahan had do to was say so. It’s impossible to reconcile this decision with the decision in The Queen v. Lucic.

    4. Tyler Dellow
      December 6, 2011 at

      I read Rule 69.1 differently than you do. I think it relates to determining whether goals count.

      In any event, I think it’s harder to change direction when you’ve got your weight and edge set, in the blink of an eye, than you’d think.

      I’m actually agnostic about whether or not Tootoo should be suspended. The thing is, I think this is a much closer call than Lucic, who had no defence as far as I’m concerned.

      • dawgbone
        December 6, 2011 at

        I agree that changing direction in that instance is hard, but my point is he had no play to the front of the net and there’s no way he didn’t know that. His only hope was that the defenseman fell or stumbled.

        So did Tootoo intentionally go out to hit Miller? Possibly not.

        Did he put himself in a position where a collision was inevitable? Absolutely.

        When you try and cut to the front of the net about 3 feet away from the net at the goalline with a defenseman on you, there’s very little chance you’ll make that play.

    5. Tyler Dellow
      December 6, 2011 at


      Just in response to the Dawgbone comment that’s coming. Tootoo was trying to cut the puck under Ehrhoff’s stick, between the blade and Ehrhoff’s skate. You can see here that Tootoo’s got his stick in the air. He’s made his move on the puck (which Ehrhoff catches a piece of to stop) and is now trying to cut back into the middle. He’s not just trying to run into the goalie.

      • dawgbone
        December 7, 2011 at

        He’s got almost no angle to cut to the front of the net from here though. I understand that he’s not just trying to run into the goalie, but he’s also got to know that’s probably what he’s going to do.

    6. December 7, 2011 at

      I don’t understand why you fail to see why the game misconduct was applied, it’s right there in bold in 42.1:

      A minor, major or a major and a game misconduct shall be imposed on a player who charges a goalkeeper while the goalkeeper is within his goal crease.

      The bits delineating the difference between minor, major, etc. (42.2 – 42.5) appear to apply to charging other skaters, not goalies.

      • Tyler Dellow
        December 7, 2011 at

        That makes some more sense. I can buy that as to why that was the right call then.

        I still don’t think that this is worse than what Lucic did though.

        • December 7, 2011 at

          To me, the major factor here was the leap. While the intention was expressed as being to minimize the impact, it seems to be more reckless than anything else, virtually guaranteeing contact with the head. Either straighten up and make the contact body-to-body (which happens often in sudden, unanticipated collisions) or try to evade to the left or right.

          The confusing bit to me is the Key Point which Shanahan noted mentioning Tootoo’s past history for a suspension back in 2007. Exhibit 8 of the CBA appears to define a repeat offender only as someone who has sinned within the last 18 months, though. Man, that document frustrates me.

          • December 7, 2011 at

            “straighten up and hit body to body” in this case is actually “slam your hip into his head and likely end up falling all over him afterwards”, seeing as Miller is on his knees. If you look at Tootoo during the leap, its not like he’s leaping and coming up and pushing his arms through the “hit” or anything like that – he’s actually twisting his body, he’s trying avoid or minimize contact. Maybe it’s not the best move, but I don’t see what other sort of option Tootoo has there. He’s making (or trying to make) a legitimate hockey play, he’s then penned in by Ehrhoff, and it’s too late to go elsewhere or to necessarily stop.

            Also, Tyler, I also think its further evidence to your point that as the collision happens, the stick is levered clear out of Ehrhoff’s and goes flipping away, and does so with enough force that it takes his glove with it.

          • Tyler Dellow
            December 7, 2011 at

            Yeah, I don’t buy the leap as being into him though. It looked to me like a last ditch effort to avoid the hit. If he wants to bury him, he just goes right through him.

            Like, for example, Lucic.

          • Chris
            December 7, 2011 at

            Remember it hasn’t been that long ago that Tootoo did jump over a goaltender to make sure he did not make contact.

    7. Phil
      December 7, 2011 at

      As was already pointed out, the rule specifically talks about contact with the goalie in the crease. The footnotes (Ie. 42.2-5) do apply to goaltenders not just skaters. However, a goalie doesn’t have to leave the game for it to be deemed an “injury.”

      There are three factors that make this play different than Lucic’s.
      1) Miller was performing his goaltending duties in his privileged area when Tootoo hit him. In the earlier incident, Miller came way out to beat Lucic to the loose puck.
      2) As Dellow points out, Lucic stops skating at the top of the circle. Tootoo is still taking strides when he hits Miller. This is one of the main criteria looked at for a charging penalty.
      3) Lucic glides into Miller, where Tootoo jumps before initial contact, leaping into Miller. This is far more dangerous, not just because the head is targeted, but because the force is being concentrated into a smaller area.

      • December 7, 2011 at

        1) This is the difference a lot of people are citing, but it seems irrelevant to me, and I don’t know why Shanny made such a point of it. Goalies are not allowed to be hit ANYWHERE. It’s in the rules. If I check a goalie in the corner, or in the crease, it’s still checking a goalie and it’s a penalty. The “protection of the crease” is in a sense of a players ability to “own” the ice he’s on, at least to my understand. When you’re standing somewhere, you have a right to the ice you’re on, and players have to go around you, or else they’re interfering with you. You don’t get that right in the blue paint unless you’re the one wearing the big pads. Basically, it exists so you can’t stand on one side of the net when the goalie is on the other, and then “own your ice” and keep the goalie from moving to the other side to make a save. But from a “can’t be checked” perspective, that applies to the goalie in his crease, the other crease, in the corner, or if he’s dancing naked at center ice.

        2) That’s not even remotely true – Tootoo isn’t taking strides at Miller. When you make that move to try to beat the D to the front, most of the time (and the evidence bears this out with Tootoo, just look at the pictures above), you’re not moving your feet and taking strides. You already gained your speed coming up the boards, and at this point you plant your lead foot (Tootoo’s right) to protect the puck, and at that point you’re just coasting on the speed you already picked up, and you’re just steering at that point, until you’re stepping out of that tight curve and coming over the front of the crease (which Tootoo never made it to). Seriously, look above, his feet are planted, not striding, Ehrhoff knocks the puck off, and then Tootoo hits Miller. His feet turn (as pointed out, he’s clearly trying to steer away from the crease), but he never takes another stride once he’s facing Miller.

        3) Again, misleading if not factually inaccurate. Lucic did not exactly “glide” into Miller – he straight up hit the guy. Sure, he didn’t take a stride as he approached him, but he still very obviously just said “fuck it” and put a very hard hit on Miller. If you’re going to call what Lucic did “gliding into” the goalie, then so did Tootoo – he also never took a stride into Miller. Further, due to Miller’s position on his knees, just about any contact between Miller and Tootoo was going to involve head contact. The only way Tootoo could touch any other part of Miller would’ve been with his feet, which certainly wouldn’t have been any safer. Tootoo’s body language also pretty clearly suggests he’s trying to avoid contact. It’s not like he jumped into the hit on Miller like a Kronwall body check or something. He clearly twists his body, trying to minimize contact, maybe catch Tootoo’s hips on Millers shoulders, but not just drive straight through the guy’s face. On the Lucic hit, Lucic just makes a complete body check, not just using his shoulder or his hips, but using his arms to explode high through the check into Miller. If you watch the Lucic video with the replay from the glass behind the BUF net, you clearly see Lucic recognize that Miller is in his path, he straightens up to make the hit, he then grabs his stick with his second hand, pulls the stick up, and throws his arms into the check on Miller, who is looking down and playing the puck. Lucic deliberately made a check against a goalie, and he deliberately aimed high with his check, against a goalie whose head was down and whose head had not moved significantly immediately prior to contact. His body language is clear as day that he just said “fuck it, I’m gonna hit him” and that is against the rules. Tootoo’s is, at worst, questionable (unlike Lucic’s), and is pretty arguably indicative of a guy trying to avoid the contact.

        If you want to say that in attempting to avoid/mitigate that contact and trying to jump around his head, he actually made it worse, that’s fine, but then you punish for that, and the video should read “don’t jump into him, just run into him like Milan Lucic does and you’ll be ok”. But that’s not what the suspension video said.

        • December 7, 2011 at

          Hell, just look at the second Tootoo picture Tyler posted above (the third one overall). Look at Tootoo’s hips. That isn’t a guy who is trying to hit a goalie. If you’re going into him, you get your hips forward, you make a straight line with your shoulder and hip, and you run into a guy with it. You know, like you do when you check someone. You don’t have your hips back like that, looking like you’re trying to keep your balance or keep from falling forward.

        • Phil
          December 7, 2011 at

          1) Where the hit takes place as well as under what context plays a huge part in the difference in the play. Nobody said that a goalie is fair game outside the crease. What was said is that there is a difference between hitting a goalie that beats a player to a loose puck in the face-off circle, and a player hitting a goalie that is in his crease, performing his goaltending duties.

          2) Tootoo was still skating right before the picture is taken. There is a difference in gliding the last 5 feet before contact and gliding the last 20 feet before contact. I’ll also point out that Tootoo had already lost the puck, so there was no possible “hockey play” to make as soon as he began to turn. Lucic was at least racing for the puck until Miller got to it.

          3) What do you call the act of moving along the ice after a player stops taking strides? Gliding. That is, in your own words, “factually” what Lucic was doing. I also said that what Lucic did was “hit” Miller, but what lead to the hit was gliding, not taking powerful strides. Tootoo was still skating when he was a lot closer to Milller.

          You keep saying it yourself, Tootoo left his feet. Leaving your feet is a lot more dangerous than simply running into a player. Tootoo made no attempt to avoid contact. He never even made an attempt to slow down, as evidenced by the direction of his skates and the lack of snow. If Tootoo would have at least made an attempt to avoid contact, rather than leaving his feet, Miller would have gotten Tootoo’s gloves to the mask, there would have been a scrum, and it would have been over. Instead, Tootoo continued towards Miller, leaped in the air, and crashed through him.

          What people seem to be forgetting is that this isn’t just a penalty for checking a goalie. It was a penalty for charging. A dangerous charge. Miller was in his crease. Miller was performing his goaltending duties. Tootoo was still skating hard at a much closer distance. Tootoo left his feet.

          Fistric was just suspended 3 games for a dangerous hit where he left his feet, too. Argue that Lucic should have been suspended all you want, that’s fine. But it wasn’t the same play.

    8. Wendy
      December 7, 2011 at

      I believe that this decision would be different if any of the video evidence was filmed from the glass side of the net. If the league wants to protect goaltenders than they need to have as much evidence as possible. Cameras could be placed on the glass and in the net itself. The cameras used to gather evidence do not need to be of broadcast quality to gather the evidence or got just be black and white so that clarity is there with less pixels.

    9. Paul
      December 7, 2011 at

      If anyone watched the Predators playoff games last year you would have seen Tootoo completely jump over Dan Ellis to avoid a collision. If you were going to intentionally run a goalie wouldn’t you choose to do it in a playoff series in the hope you might take someones starting goalie out instead of a game that is still early in the season, not to mention someone not even from your conference.

      Here is a link to a pick of it. http://i.usatoday.net/sports/gallery/2011/NHL/Playoffs/firstround/s110413_tootoopg-vertical.jpg

      I can’t believe that someone didn’t pull this instance out as proof that in the past Tootoo has made the same leap to avoid a collision. The difference this time is that he had a little help from an opposing d-man.

    10. Paul
      December 7, 2011 at

      Ok, let’s look at the pictures above again.

      In the 3rd picture(which is really the first in the sequence) Tootoo is just about even with the top of the crease (blue ice) with his feet turned in the direction that would allow him to cut across in front of where Miller is in his crease at that time, and also still far enough out to make it. But look at the direction of Ehrhoff’s skates and his travel, notice anything? Which direction do you think ANY contact he had with Tootoo is going to send him?

      The first picture (which is really the 2nd in the sequence) shows how much deeper Ehrhoff has influenced Tootoo’s position relative to Miller. Notice Tootoo’s skates still turned in the direction for a possible cut across the crease. At this point he has two choices, lower his shoulder and really blast Miller or attempt to leap him, he no longer has the option of cutting behind the net or stopping because of Ehrhoff. Notice too the position of Ehrhoff’s skates nor his direction of travel have changed.

      The 2nd picture (which is really the 3rd in the sequence) now shows Tootoo starting to straighten up to attempt to leap Miller. He no longer has anywhere to go because of the influence on his position by Ehrhoff, not to mention Ehrhoff’s stick which is jammed between him and Miller, which cuts off any avenue of escape for Tootoo. Even if you want to say that Ehrhoff didn’t actually push him (I believe he did) he did influence his direction. Look at Ehrhoff’s position. His direction of travel has never changed but Tootoo’s has. Who do you think had more influence on the other’s movement?

      The refs and Shanahan have blown this and I agree that if it had been one of the league stars they wouldn’t have gotten a suspension..

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