Monday, March 15, 2010

Don Lucia is right

After North Dakota's 4-1 victory over Minnesota to win the series, Gophers coach Don Lucia was visibly upset about Matt Frattin's hit that knocked defenseman Kevin Wehrs out of the game.

The moment I saw the hit, I knew the result would be bad and that Frattin would get a 5-minute major for it. He deserved it. He came a long way to make the hit, and both his skates left the ice when he delivered it. It was a classic case of charging. If the WCHA suspends Frattin, it will be because he deserves it.

In his post-game comments, Lucia said: "That’s a vicious hit. Say what you want, it’s not the kind of hits we want to see in the game. My own personal feeling is that it was more than a five. Obviously, Wehrs is not in great shape right now. They’ve got a defenseman (Chay Genoway) that hasn’t played all year because of a hit, and those are things that I don’t think need to be part of the game."

I'm in complete agreement with Lucia. I, too, thought Frattin should have been tossed out of the game and was surprised he wasn't.

I suspect that the league will suspend Frattin for at least one game, and that's too bad because he has proven himself a valuable part of the team at a critical point in the season. If Fighting Sioux fans are honest with themselves, they'll admit that it's the right course of action.

UND is the last team that should be delivering dangerous hits to the head because of what happened to Genoway. And because of what happened to Robbie Bina five years ago, it should be the last team taking checking from behind penalties. There's no defending those types of hits.

32 comments:

Anonymous said...

Sorry, but the replay of that hit does not show him leaving his feet and Weir was facing him when he came in for the check. I do not want to see anyone hurt but you need to be clear before you "label" a hit dirty.

The Whistler said...

I agree it was a charge, but it was not an hit to the head.

If the league suspends Frattin for a game I won't complain. I think the 5 minute was proper, but then I acknowledge that I'm biased.

Patrick C. Miller said...

I didn't use the word "dirty," you did. And Frattin clearly left his feet to deliver the hit, which makes it illegal.

I know what happened. I saw it with my own eyes. The video shows it. The photo in the Herald shows it.

roper1313 said...

Come on fellow Sioux fans. If that was one of our guys on the ice we'd be screaming for a suspension. As Pat said look at the paper, both of his feet were off the ground. It was vicious, and we'll probably be without Frattin on Thursday.

ticklethetwine said...

I would have to agree that it was a big time hit and charging for sure but upon further review he clearly hits him first before feet are propelled in the air. I understand Patrick you were there and saw it with your own eyes but so did 11,700 people and I am sure there are different versions of how people saw it. Also to include Robbie Bina's blatant check from behind and try compare is really a stretch. I am sure he will be suspended and perhaps deservedly so.

Patrick C. Miller said...

I'm not going to quibble over the details of what exactly Frattin did and when he did it. Anyone who wants to watch the video can do that. However, it was a dangerous, unnecessary and illegal hit, which also describes Geoff Paukovich's hit on Robbie Bina. Remember, some Denver fans also made excuses for Paukovich, such as Bina being so much shorter than him. I would hope that Sioux fans are better than that.

mwurzer said...

Here are photos from the video showing he didn't leave his feet or lift his arms or elbows before delivering the hit.

http://board.uscho.com/showpost.php?p=4697495&postcount=930

dead_rabbit said...

It was a vicious hit. However, if you move frame by frame through the video, it can be clearly seen that Frattin was off his feet at some point during the check, but when contact was initially made it is very clear that Frattin was still on his feet. Also, this was in no way a CFB penalty. The video shows it, and I'm pretty sure officially it was a contact to the head (which I saw none) penalty. I don't want to guess what the clowns in the league office will do, but I don't think any suspension is warranted.

Anonymous said...

As a big Sioux fan that hit was embarrasing and there is no way to defend it. Don L is right. But I would like to know what they said or did to frattin before that (not excuses but just curious).
If he gets suspended that would be deserved in my book or haskol could just bench him for a game and that'd be OK - show some character, esp after what happened to genoway and bina.
He definitely left his feet and had contact to the head and it was charging with an injury result.

Patrick C. Miller said...

Who said it was a checking from behind penalty? Nobody. It doesn't really matter to me whether the hit was contact to the head or not. It was flagrant charging that resulted in a head injury. It could also be flagrant boarding or excessive roughness. Take your pick.

Scion and You said...

It was clearly charging...but I didn't see a hit to the head. The Minnesota player was bracing for the hit and starting to go down and backward before contact. It was charging with incidental contact to the head that wasn't intentional. Nonetheless, Frattin left his feet and it definitely appeared overly aggressive. A one-game suspension seems warranted to remind players of the appropriate limits of checking.

Anonymous said...

Patrick read the last paragraph of your post. YOU said the Sioux were taking checking from behind penalties.

Patrick C. Miller said...

I was referring to "dead rabbit's" post which seemed to imply that someone said Frattin's hit was checking from behind. Nobody (especially me) said it was.

The Sioux have taken a fair number of checking from behind penalties this season. Therefore, the last paragraph of my blog is accurate.

dead_rabbit said...

I guess I was taking too big of a leap in assuming you were referring to Frattin's hit on Wehrs when you stated in your last paragraph "it should be the last team taking checking from behind penalties. There's no defending those types of hits.

Patrick C. Miller said...

Read it all in context. Here's the part you left out: "...because of what happened to Robbie Bina five years ago..."

Anonymous said...

Collision sports are inherently dangerous. Frattin charged, but Wehr didn't take on the checker and it is as much his fault as Frattin's for the violence of the collision. Loose puck, full speed, head to head, the stronger kid with better checking skills won, and now people complain. Give Wehr a participation medal and then all the MN hockey moms can feel good again.

Patrick C. Miller said...

Collision sports? I thought sports such as hockey are called contact sports. Granted, contact sports are inherently dangerous. Nobody is arguing they're not. But the reason hockey has a rulebook, referees and regulatory organizations such as the WCHA and the NCAA is to protect players from inherently dangerous acts, such as charging, hits to the head, checking from behind, spearing, boarding, etc.

Blaming Wehrs for the hit Frattin delivered (which also fits the definitions of boarding and excessive roughness) is nothing more than a way to rationalize an obvious violation of the rules. If a Minnesota player had made the same type of hit on a UND player, Sioux fans would be rightfully demanding disciplinary action.

farce poobah said...

PCM, you are partly right, but you are partly wrong.

I am disturbed by your comparison of the hits on Bina and Genoway to this hit. That's highly misleading - the other two were premeditated with several seconds to hold up and followed an indefensible decision to deliver a hit on an unsuspecting player from behind. Both were intent to injure.

By contrast, the Frattin hit on Wehrs was a bang-bang reaction play. I thought Wehrs was going to go shoulder to shoulder with Frattin, and was shocked to see him get flattened. Frattin braced for a hit, leaning forward (coming in too fast) and readied for an impact that never came. There was no hint of intent to injure (especially given Frattin's history of lack of penalties). There was, however, the reckless and dangerous aspect to it that definitely deserved the major.

Charging? Yes.

Comparable to the hits on Bina and Genoway? Hell no.

Patrick C. Miller said...

Sorry, farce poobah, but I don't agree at all. Frattin could have and should have pulled up before hitting Wehrs. He had plenty of time and space to do that. He could have delivered a good hard, clean check without jumping into Wehrs and blasting him back into the boards.

Frattin came a long way to make the hit. He knew he was going fast and he admitted that he was going for a big hit. And yet you tell me that what he did wasn't premeditated while the the hits by Marvin and Paukovich were? How on earth can you claim to know that? Based on Frattin's own words, there is a great deal to suggest that he did precisely what he intended to do.

You and others are completely missing the point of my references to Genoway and Bina. It has nothing to do with simlarities between the hits and everything to do with the fact that they were all dangerous, illegal and totaly unnecessary.

I'll state it another way: Because the Fighting Sioux and their fans should understand better than anyone the high cost of dangerous, illegal hits, I would hope that UND's players and coaches would take measures to avoid engaging in the type of play that leads to such hits. That's what disappoints me about what Frattin did and the reactions of Sioux fans attempting to justify, rationalize and excuse it.

Anonymous said...

I'm Patrick, but reviewing the video over and over does not show him jumping into the air before the hit. His feet leave the ground because the opposing force, Wehr, is lower than he is and causes his body to move up and over him during the hit. Basically its charging, but if it would have been a taller guy I would assume it would have been a basic charging call and not the outcome decried by the WCHA.

William M. McDonald said...

The problem I have with the suspension is two-fold. 1. It is not explained what in particular about the hit merits the additional punishment of suspension. 2. Video replay does not offer definitive evidence that additional punishment is warranted. It does not support that Frattin left his feet prior to contact. It does not support that the initial contact point was to Wehr's head. It does not support that Frattin took steps just prior to the contact. It does not support that Wehr was in a vulnerable position. If anything, it provides (admittedly not clear for each) evidence contrary to all of these points. In short, it provides no more information than was available to the officials at the time of the incident and call. By the way, intent to deliver "a big hit" is not illegal. I hope Wehr is okay. I also hope that if the same had been delivered to a Sioux player, I'd look at it the same way. I can't help but feel that the additional punishment is more about UMN not scoring on the major and Wehr experiencing injury than any concrete evidence against Frattin showing he deserves it. Since the WCHA never explains its decisions, we'll never know and my theory is as good as anyone else's. I am also disappointed that the Bina and Genoway hits were mentioned while chastising Frattin for his. That's just irresponsible.

Never Summer said...

I would like to thank you PCM for bringing this to light (it might not be your idea, but this is the first place I’ve read it); your right the common denominator for problem hits at all levels of hockey is dangerous, irresponsible, and unnecessary. if you look at this hit as just a hit it is very close to text book (w/ the exception of how far out he lines him up) no matter what color the sweaters (I’m not here to argue that); but when you ask yourself was he irresponsible, you have to answer yes. I can't believe I’m agreeing with Lucia, someone bring me a bucket.

I’m all for the big hits and physical play, in fact it's one of my favorite aspects of the game; but something has to give. If the players start to realize that unnecessary (weather intentional or not) is going to result in a penalty or suspension, the game will only get better.

Patrick C. Miller said...

Never Summer, it's not as if I look for reasons to agree with Don Lucia. Having covered the Fighting Sioux for the past nine seasons, I've heard him make plenty of silly statements regarding UND hockey. But this is one time where I think he has a valid point. Anyone who wants to see season-ending and potentially career-ending hits minimized in collge hockey should understand his point about Genoway and my point about Bina. You have to be critical whenever it happens, not just when a player on the opposing team engages in unsafe play.

Anonymous said...

As a USA hockey official for ten years and with the knowledge of playing hockey since I was four I can say the hit WAS NOT CHARGING. He was coasting from the bottom of the circles. He did not jump into the player. His feat left the ice because of his momentum.


Was it interference, yes. Dangerous, yes with Wehrs backing down before the hit. Illegal, yes because it was interference.
I want the people who think this hit was a hit as bad as Marvin's to try to respond to William M. McDonald's arguments. If you can take his points and beat them then your arguments will be more valid.

Big hits happen in hockey and sometimes there is nothing you can do to prevent them. If Wehrs never got hurt would we be talking about this hit. This hit was not nasty or visious and would be legal if Wehrs had posession of the puck. The Genoway hit would have been nasty either way!

Patrick C. Miller said...

If that wasn't a classic case of charging, then I guess I don't know what charging would look like. Tim Hennessy, who's covered college hockey a bit, and his color commentator called it charging immediately after it happened. Apparently they are as ignorant as I am.

I know what the rule in the NCAA rule book says. I've watched the video countless times. To say that Frattin's hit was not not charging under the NCAA rules is simply lucicrous. Have you actually read the rule?

In the charging rule, there is nothing which specifies a point at which jumping into the opposing player is permitted. It just says you can't do it. Frattin left his feet in the process of delivering the hit. It's clear from the video that he did it by getting low and launching himself upwards to maximize the impact.

How does a person jump? By getting low and using the legs to propel the body upward. That's what Frattin did. It's what caused him to leave his feet while delivering the hit. Under the charging rule, the point at which he did this is completely irrelevant. That's why the stop-action shots of Frattin on his skates before launches into Wehrs are meaningless.

I often don't agree with the WCHA, how it officiates games and how it handles supplemental discipline. But in this case, the officials got the call on the ice right and the suspension was justified. I do agree with William McDonald that the WCHA should give a specific reason (or reasons) as to why it suspended Frattin. I think it's fairly obvious myself, but to those who don't understand, it might be helpful.

I will say this one more time: Never did I say that Frattin's hit on Wehrs was the same as Marvin's hit on Genoway or Paukovich's hit on Bina. What the three hits have in common is that they were all:

1. Illegal under the NCAA rules.

2. Dangerous to the players on the receiving end.

3. Unnecessary.

I have always been and will always be against illegal, dangerous hits, no matter which team engages in them.

William M. McDonald said...

It is definitely charging because of the distance covered by Frattin before he made contact. But this was obvious to everyone and was not really new information garnered by review of the play after the game.

"In the charging rule, there is nothing which specifies a point at which jumping into the opposing player is permitted." This is true, but it also does not explicitly say anything to support "Under the charging rule, the point at which he did this is completely irrelevant. That's why the stop-action shots of Frattin on his skates before launches into Wehrs are meaningless." While I agree it is conjecture and interpretation on my part that leaving one's feet after making contact is not a penalty, it is surely also interpretation and conjecture on your part to say that it is completely irrelevant and meaningless. Do I think there is a difference in the "danger factor" involved between leaving your feet before the hit and after making contact? Yes - the former will almost always result in contacting the opponent higher upon their body (i.e. head). Additionally, it seems to me that a skater can unleash that same coiled leg muscle force onto an opponent without "jumping" (i.e. the so oft stated "leaving their feet"), by applying that force horizontally rather than upward - perhaps to an even more devastating effect.

"I do agree with William McDonald that the WCHA should give a specific reason (or reasons) as to why it suspended Frattin. I think it's fairly obvious myself, but to those who don't understand, it might be helpful." Because of the lack of explicitness in the rule as explained above, it is not obvious, but thanks all the same for the condescension.

“What the three hits have in common is that they were all:

1. Illegal under the NCAA rules.

2. Dangerous to the players on the receiving end.

3. Unnecessary.“

What charging penalty is not illegal, dangerous to the player on the receiving end, and unnecessary? Why is it then that this particular infraction was not a 2 minute minor and why was a 5 minute major deemed inadequate? This is what would be nice to have the WCHA explain. Without an explanation, it is hard to argue that the additional punishment was meted out as a means to demonstrate what specifically the league is trying to prevent. Without an explanation, it smacks of McLeod just trying to get people off his back because UMN did not score on the major or because Wehrs was injured.

I think you would be better off admitting that in hindsight, including mention of the Bina and Genoway incidents was an error in judgment on your part. For reasons already discussed in this comment and others, they are more different than they are similar.

Finally, I would love to see how a competent officiating organization that operates in the open (such as that in the NHL) would rule on this particular incident.

Never Summer said...

I agree with both of the points in your response to me. Lucia gained some respect this year with his comment about wanting the best players available for every team on any given night, but I still don't believe he holds his players to the same standard he holds the rest of the league (i.e. punching players in the back of the head when they're face down on the ice = no suspension and teammates just backing each other up), but I’m not trying to argue that point.

I agree that Frattin got what he deserved, but only if this is the new standard in the WCHA and not just a one off call because all eye were on this series.

In the NHL this is a 2 or 5 min. roughing call, no suspension. If you don't believe me Google Dion Phaneuf.

Joe said...

I love how the guy who claims to be an experienced official would claim that this should have been interference and not charging. The puck was at Wehrs' feet! How is that interference?
I urge you to come back and justify your claim.

Patrick C. Miller said...

Part I

William M. McDonald: “It is definitely charging because of the distance covered by Frattin before he made contact.”

I’m glad we can agree on that point.

WMM: “While I agree it is conjecture and interpretation on my part that leaving one's feet after making contact is not a penalty, it is surely also interpretation and conjecture on your part to say that it is completely irrelevant and meaningless.”

Do you think that both of Frattin’s skates well up in the air while he was in the process of delivering the hit played a role in the referee’s decision to call charging? I’d be extremely surprised if it didn’t. I’d also be extremely surprised if the ref gave even a moment’s thought as to whether Frattin’s jump started before or during contact. Why should it matter? The rule makes no mention of that point. All it says is that you can’t do it. Period. It doesn’t say that if you begin the jump at Point A rather than Point B, it’s permitted.

Absent some language in the NCAA rulebook of which I’m unaware, the rule is quite explicit and it makes no exceptions. That’s not conjecture. It’s a fact. For that reason, images showing Frattin on his skates before he was off them are irrelevant and meaningless.

WMM: “Because of the lack of explicitness in the rule as explained above, it is not obvious, but thanks all the same for the condescension.”

I apologize for the condescension. However, the rule, as written, is quite simple and does explicitly prohibit jumping to deliver a check. And while I might agree that the rule could be improved by defining what constitutes jumping, all anyone can do at this point is read the rule as written and decide whether it was properly applied in this case. We seem to be in agreement that it was.

WMM: “Without an explanation, it smacks of McLeod just trying to get people off his back because UMN did not score on the major or because Wehrs was injured.”

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I am one of Bruce McLeod’s biggest critics. But the idea that the league would suspend Frattin because Minnesota didn’t score on the power play is ludicrous. What good does it do Minnesota now? If I had to make a guess, I’d say the fact that Frattin wasn’t tossed from the last game greatly increased the likelihood that he’d be suspended for the next one. And why shouldn’t the injury to Wehrs be taken into account? I’d be disappointed if it wasn’t.

Patrick C. Miller said...

Part II

William M. McDonald: “I think you would be better off admitting that in hindsight, including mention of the Bina and Genoway incidents was an error in judgment on your part. For reasons already discussed in this comment and others, they are more different than they are similar.”

I will make no such admission because it’s a point I’ve consistently made since the injury to Bina and since the injury to Genoway. The great irony here is that you and others want to condemn me now for something I’ve been saying for years. The only difference is that now, after a UND player has made an illegal, dangerous hit that injured an opposing player, you don’t want to hear it. Muting my opinion at this point would not only be far too convenient, it would also be extremely hypocritical.

Player safety must be a priority for the NCAA, the WCHA, coaches and players. When I a see a player deliver what is clearly an illegal, dangerous and unnecessary hit, I’ll be critical no matter which jersey he wears. If that player is wearing a Fighting Sioux jersey, I’ll not only be critical, but I'll also be very disappointed because – based on UND’s experience – our team should know better than to engage in that type of play.

That being said, I am not na├»ve enough to believe that no Sioux player will ever make a mistake that causes an injury to another team’s player. In the course of a game, players make dozens of split-second decisions. They’re not always going to make the correct one. Unless a player has a history of dirty hits or says or does something that clearly indicates the intent to injure, I will always assume bad judgment rather than malicious intent.

Knowing that throughout two and a half seasons, Matt Frattin has not been heavily penalized and has not engaged in dangerous play, I will give him the same benefit of the doubt that I give all players. Unlike many Sioux fans, I was willing to give Aaron Marvin the benefit of the doubt after his hit on Genoway – until he went headhunting again and took out another team’s star player with a vicious hit. I was highly critical of the officials for not calling a penalty on the play and for the WCHA’s apparent reluctance to further discipline Marvin. I have little sympathy for those who don’t learn from their mistakes.

WMM: “Finally, I would love to see how a competent officiating organization that operates in the open (such as that in the NHL) would rule on this particular incident.”

As I said, I have no love for the WCHA’s leadership, its officiating or many of the decisions it makes. But in this instance, the one mistake I believe league officials made was not ejecting Frattin from Sunday’s game. If that had happened, I doubt that we’d still be discussing this because I don’t think Lucia would have made as big a deal about it.

William M. McDonald said...

This will be my last comment on this subject. Even so, I sense I’m beating my head against a wall so I’ll try to be brief.

PCM: “Why should it matter? The rule makes no mention of that point. All it says is that you can’t do it. Period. It doesn’t say that if you begin the jump at Point A rather than Point B, it’s permitted.”

Why then did you bother trying explain the consequences of jumping after making contact (to which I offered an ignored refutation)?

PCM: “And while I might agree that the rule could be improved by defining what constitutes jumping, all anyone can do at this point is read the rule as written and decide whether it was properly applied in this case. We seem to be in agreement that it was.”

I assure you we are not – I agree it was charging, but only because of the distance Frattin traveled before making contact.

PCM: “But the idea that the league would suspend Frattin because Minnesota didn’t score on the power play is ludicrous…And why shouldn’t the injury to Wehrs be taken into account? I’d be disappointed if it wasn’t.”

Poor phrasing on my part – I meant to use hyperbole to build on the point in my earlier comment that because there was no explanation, lots of speculation as to the reason would result (to include that McLeod didn’t really have one, he was just trying to relieve the pressure on him). And to be clear, I do feel that Wehrs’ injury should be taken into consideration (but not be the only consideration). I just don’t think relieving pressure on McLeod because of it should be.

PCM: “I will make no such admission because it’s a point I’ve consistently made since the injury to Bina and since the injury to Genoway. The great irony here is that you and others want to condemn me now for something I’ve been saying for years. The only difference is that now, after a UND player has made an illegal, dangerous hit that injured an opposing player, you don’t want to hear it. Muting my opinion at this point would not only be far too convenient, it would also be extremely hypocritical.

Player safety must be a priority for the NCAA, the WCHA, coaches and players. When I see a player deliver what is clearly an illegal, dangerous and unnecessary hit, I’ll be critical no matter which jersey he wears. If that player is wearing a Fighting Sioux jersey, I’ll not only be critical, but I'll also be very disappointed because – based on UND’s experience – our team should know better than to engage in that type of play.

…Unlike many Sioux fans, I was willing to give Aaron Marvin the benefit of the doubt after his hit on Genoway.”

This is where I disagree with you the most: There are similarities to all three, but the biggest and overriding difference is that Frattin’s check, to put it ridiculously mildly, was much, much closer to being a legal check. I do not wish to be insulting, but I think your reluctance to yield on this really begins to make you look foolishly inflexible.

Patrick C. Miller said...

William M. McDonald: "This is where I disagree with you the most: There are similarities to all three, but the biggest and overriding difference is that Frattin’s check, to put it ridiculously mildly, was much, much closer to being a legal check."

We'll have to agree to disagree because I don't think it was anywhere near being a legal check. If that had been the case, Frattin would have gotten two minutes rather than five and the WCHA would have no reason to even consider a supspension. There's no way you're ever going to convince me that the hit was worthy of only a minor penalty.

I will say this about the hit: I don't believe Frattin was headhunting. It was nothing like the hits Aaron Marvin put on Chay Genoway and Blake Geoffrion which were clearly aimed at the players' heads. Some have said that Frattin came in with his elbow(s) up. However, I don't think the video supports that. He tried to keep his arms down and deliver the check with his shoulder. His arms came up after the hit, a natural reaction to regain balance.

While contact to the head may have been involved, it does not appear that Frattin intended to deliver a blow up high to Wehr's head. He did make the effort to come in low and use the shoulder.

Unfortunately, Frattin's speed, the distance he traveled and the upward force with which he delivered the blow combined to make it far from a legal hit.