A single controversy has dominated discussion following last Saturday’s electric AIHL Melbourne derby. Social media exploded following an altercation between the Mustangs’ Joey Hughes and the Ice’s Chris Wong late in the third period that underlined an all-time-classic AIHL game.’

Photo: Matt Wragg Photography

Photo: Matt Wragg Photography

The view from the stands, armchairs and commentary box provide differing perspectives. The view from behind the visor provides another.

The IIHF Rule Book is the go-to guide for the black and white striped brethren who ensure its contents are duly enforced.

In addition, the IIHF Case Book provides a plethora of information, guidance and most importantly, interpretation for the laws of the game in situations that occur which are not explicitly covered in the IIHF Rule Book. It is just as important as its printed relative.

One of those situations occurred on Saturday evening.

For those that somehow missed it and by some miracle are not reading this on the internet where the game is also still streamed, a brief textual history:

Referee Jeff Scott was observing the play on which Mustangs’ forward Joey Hughes delivered a legal body check on the Ice’s Chris Wong in front of the Melbourne Ice bench. As the now loose puck then entered the Melbourne Ice defensive zone, his attention rightfully turned to Mustangs’ forward Viktor Gibbs Sjödin. Gibbs Sjödin took possession of the puck, skated behind the Melbourne Ice net where he gave a deft outlet pass to his teammate Jack Wolgemuth. Wolgemuth let a howitzer of a slapshot go and beat Gustaf Huth for the then go-ahead goal. As this was happening, Hughes and Wong had become entangled after the hit and had not moved from the vicinity of the Melbourne Ice bench.

Immediately after the play where the goal was scored, Linesman Casper Russelhuber, who had been at ‘Ground Zero’ in front of the Melbourne Ice bench where the hit on Wong occurred, skated directly over to Referee Jeff Scott and informed him that he had seen Hughes kick the down Wong as he lay on the ice post collision. Scott then waved off the goal and assessed a Match Penalty to Hughes.

Chaos ensued on the ice, benches and in the stands.

Enter Stage left, IIHF Case Book. It states: (on page 35):

“Rule 471 – Disallowing a goal

B – Interpretation

Situation 7
A Linesman is about to report a Major or Match penalty to the Referee, but before he reports to the Referee the offending team scores a goal.

Ruling: The incident shall be reported by the Linesman to the Referee who shall disallow the goal and assess the penalty.”

(Source – IIHF Case Book 2013/2014. Available here: http://www.iihf.com/fileadmin/user_upload/PDF/Sport/Officiating/Case_Book_-_2013_-_14.pdf)

Linesman Casper Russelhuber reported what he had seen to Referee Jeff Scott and that he had observed a kicking incident (Match Penalty under rule 535). The goal was then waved off, the Match Penalty assessed to Hughes and a 5 minute major (part of Match penalty component) assessed to the Mustangs’ who were left to kill off the penalty until the end of the period.

There has also been a sub-argument to the case about citing Section 330 of the IIHF Rule Book in the case of the goal being waved off illegally by the officials under this section.

This section of the Rule Book is entirely irrelevant to the incident for two reasons:

(a) Russelhuber had already witnessed the incident first hand and had reported it to Scott immediately after the play (long before accusations of “he watched the video screen” and replays could realistically be cued up), thus ruling any claims of influence by video review invalid;
(b) Section 330 only deals with instances where the puck has crossed the goal line, a goal has been awarded or waved off, and the officials do not have a clear view of the play to determine if the puck was legally or illegally directed in. There is zero provision legally within the Rule Book for it to be utilised for the calling of penalties. (Post game tribunal hearings are another matter) This is the same consistency from the Olympics and NHL down to the AIHL and Sunday night beer league. Any decision on penalties from this section would be legally invalid and can’t be enforced. This is one of the very basic rules that veteran and budding officials alike must familiarise themselves with in order to don the stripes.

Seasoned and casual fans alike must also realise that in the AIHL, a 3 man system is in operation. This is predominantly due to a shortage of AIHL qualified officials being available for both AIHL and local state association duties on any given weekend. This is quite understandable and it is currently a fact of life of hockey down under. If we had had the luxury of a 4 man system in this context and the same incident had occurred, quite possibly (given positioning) it would have been spotted by the back referee before the goal had been scored when the Mustangs’ were in possession of the puck, and blown dead before Wolgemuth had even gotten the pass from Gibbs-Sjödin.

And Facebook and Twitter could have taken the night off.

The arguments about intent and ferocity of the kicking motion made by Hughes on Wong are for the Tribunal to decide.

Legally speaking, the correct call was made by both linesman Russelhuber and referee Scott on the play. A ballsy and unpopular one admittedly, but the legally correct one. Jeff Scott, Jeff Klinck and Casper Russelhuber had it tough in front of a hostile bi-partisan crowd in Melbourne on Saturday night. They took and gave the hits just as well as players from both the Ice and Mustangs did.
Kudos, gentlemen.