A Little Snow In The Face

P.K. Subban getting an unsportsmanlike penalty for spraying a little snow on Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist seemed a little harsh, don’t you think?

Here’s an excerpt from the National Post, May 2011, after something similiar had occurred during a Red Wings-Sharks playoff game:

“Forget headshots and hits from behind or even ramming an opponent’s face WWE-style into the stanchion. What has got everybody up in arms is spraying tiny flecks ice into a goaltender toward a downed goaltender’s mask.

Snowgate is what some are calling it. And we will admit it is a cheeky move, not unlike Sean Avery waving his hands and stick in the face of Martin Brodeur during a power play a few years ago. In that instance, the league immediately stepped in and adopted the “Avery Rule,” which made such tactics punishable via an unsportsmanlike penalty.

But after the San Jose Sharks repeatedly sprayed snow in the face of Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard during Games 1 and 2 of the Western Conference semi-finals, should the league start handing down penalties?

It is tough to say. In a lot of instances, the player is driving hard to the net in search of a rebound and then stopping inches from the downed goaltender, so spraying snow is inevitable. The referee would have to determine intent. Even then, we’re talking about a little snow.

Sharks captain Joe Thornton said it is part of the game. And Sharks head coach Todd McLellan said he has “no time for gimmick or circus acts.”

But it is clear that Howard believes his opponents are using a bit of gamesmanship.

“They’re trying to get under my skin,” said Howard. “I know that and I won’t let them.”

Not true, said McLellan, who believes all the talk about snow showering is to detract his players from going hard to the hard.

“We are going to the blue paint and no one is going to take that away from us,” he said. “We’re going to stop in the blue paint and we’re going to stand there. And nothing is going to change moving forward. I guess we have to be a little more cautious with where we stop in that blue paint, but that’s not changing.”

San Jose Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi said he would have no problems if referees penalized players for spraying snow, but in order to do so they would have to determine a player’s intentions.

“If you can do it during the play, you can make the goalie blind for a second,” said Niemi. “But once you get a break, like a whistle, then it’s different.

“If you do it on purpose, maybe yeah. Sometimes I think they’re coming for a rebound and it just happens.”

And here’s Kerry Fraser weighing in on the same playoff incident, from The Malik Report, May, 2011

Kerry Fraser weighs in on Sharks’ ‘snow showers’ on Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard

by George Malik on 05/02/11 at 04:31 PM ET
Updated at 5:59 PM: Todd McLellan and Joe Pavelski say nothing will change: The sidebar story of note regarding the Red Wings 2-1 loss to San Jose on Sunday involved the Sharks’ continued use of “snow showers” to annoy Jimmy Howard, and TSn analyst and former referee Kerry Fraser says that at least he’d call a penalty on the Sharks (which is a no-no, as we already know) for their antics:

Grab the shovel because you are bang on relative to the ‘snow job’ that Jimmy Howard is getting. As a referee, I wanted players to STOP before running into the goalie. The method and purpose here, however, is blatantly obvious. Action must be taken by the referees. Here’s how I would have handled the situation.

The second time it happened I would have approached the San Jose bench and had a direct conversation with coach Todd McLellan. Todd is a very intelligent coach and an excellent guy to deal with. I would have said, “Todd, we have a pattern here that you and I need to address. The next Shark player that stops hard for the purpose of deliberately throwing snow in Jimmy Howard’s face will receive an unsportsmanlike minor penalty! Can I count on you to take care of this please before I have to?”

Knowing Todd as I do I believe that would be all it would take? If, however it did happen again my greatest hope is that the act would be committed by the worst offender – Joe Pavelski! One call would take the snow plow off the road until next winter and justice would be served.

Continued, and he regrettably is equally demonstrative about the fact that “incidental contact” is a non-reviewable play…

Let’s all be surprised because, via the Mercury News’s Mark Emmons, the Sharks plan on continuing to shower Howard:

McLellan had a short, unapologetic response to that before boarding the plane Monday morning.

“Then there shouldn’t be any loose pucks laying there, and we won’t go there,” he said. McLellan also added: “We’re going to the net anytime there’s a loose puck there, and we’re stopping in the blue paint. It’s as simple as that.”

Pavelski, who got into a shoving match with Howard in Game 1 after a shower that earned both of them roughing penalties, said there is no intent.

“It’s not like we’re coming from long distances when the puck’s not there,” Pavelski said. “He’s bobbling pucks and we’re going hard. If the puck’s just laying there and he’s taking awhile to cover it up, you go. You have to do it because if you swing away and the puck is just laying there for a tap-in, that would stay with you for a few weeks.”



9 thoughts on “A Little Snow In The Face”

  1. I think Fraser’s approach is fair and reasonable. If there is a real pattern and intent by the offending team and the coach has been spoken to, then a penalty would be well-deserved. But the panalty against PK came out of the blue and I cannot remember ever seeing anyone penalized at any time for snow-showering a goalie. If anyone has any examples of a penalty being called for this I’d sure like to hear about it but I don’t think it’s happened before.

  2. And Danno, it wasn’t even a really blatant snow spray. It was more or less a nomal stop by Subban. I think it was a terrible call now that I’ve hadf12 hours to go over things.

  3. Just to add to the debate, here is San Jose’s Joe Pavelski snow-showering Detroit’s Jimmy Howard.

    Howard retaliates by whacking away at Pavelski and they both get two minutes for roughing.

    So in this case a snow-shower was considered roughing by the refs — and not unsportsmanlike conduct like the call they made on PK…


    This is only instance I know of a snow-shower resulting in a penalty besides the one PK got last night.

    There might be a couple of others but they’re rare.

  4. And Danno, the guy still has to stop or he gets called on goalie interference or roughing or whatever. So what’s he supposed to do, especially with a guy attached to him and pushing? The more I think about it, the more I see the game was absolutely decided by that one play. Montreal was coming on strong and then once again they had to kill a penalty. It killed all momentum. That was a chintzy call and the bosses should have a word about this.

  5. Francois Gagnon on TSN990 this morning had a theory as to why PK was called for this. Certain players get reps with the refs and PK is joining the ranks of Avery, Lapierre, etc.

    Had this been Gionta or Cammy or Gretzky or Crosby (the “good guys”) then this probably wouldn’t have been called. PK’s “showmanship” is starting to catch up with him and they probably called him because of some of his antics like looking for the ref to make calls for example.

    I love PK, but he will have to watch out or he’ll be stuck with this tag for his whole career. I think the call was a load of bullshit myself but unfortunately PK may have brought it onto himself. But the other thing is – had he kept going he would have crashed into Lund. So either way he was pretty much screwed on the play.

  6. Darth, I can buy this theory. Refs get their backs up and even though they’re supposed to fair across the board, they do come on harder to those who have tried to show them up. They have long memories. It’s part of PK’s learning process and I hope it doesn’t take a long time. He has too much talent to have a reputation. But having said that, the ref has no business in deciding the outcome of the game and that call on PK did decide it. Officials can’t be doing this and he should have to explain his actions to the league.

  7. Good stuff, Danno. Kerry expains it well although I was little fuzzy about whether he defended the refs or not and said they made the right call. Fraser’s become sort of the referee guru. He’s got personality and smarts and seems well-suited to do this sort of thing.
    PS. I thought my computer had died a final death but after about six hours of it being dead and me panicking, it revived itself. But I need another computer which will be in a few days and hopefully this thing will hang on. If you don’t see me, it’s because of this computer which, by the way, is only 9 months old and the hard drive is screwed. I need to send it back but I need another one up and running beofre I send it.

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