Tampa Bay Lightning forward Brandon Hagel has been fined for a dangerous cross-check on Florida’s Eetu Luostarinen that was reduced after review from a major penalty to a minor.

Hagel was pursuing Luostarinen in the Lightning zone. As the two neared the end boards, Hagel delivered a cross-check to the lower back that appeared to knock the Panthers player off-balance, sending him crashing into the boards.



Referee Frederick L’Ecuyer’s arm shot up immediately.

With the call on the ice a five-minute major for cross-checking, L’Ecuyer and referee Dan O’Rourke headed over to review the play.

From Rule 20.6:

Referees shall review all plays that result in the assessment of any Major Penalty (other than a Major Penalty for Fighting) for the purpose of confirming (or modifying) their original call on the ice.

Such reviews will be conducted exclusively by the Referee(s) on the ice in consultation with other On-Ice Official(s), as appropriate, using … a handheld tablet …  Communication between the Situation Room and the On-Ice Officials shall be limited to … ensure the Referee is receiving any and all video they might request, as well as the appropriate replay angles they may need to review the penalty call.  There shall be no other contact or consultation between the On-Ice Official(s) and the NHL Situation Room, or with any other non-game participant.

The Referee shall only have the following options following video review of his own call: (i) confirming his original Major Penalty call; or (ii) reducing his original Major Penalty call to a lesser penalty for the same infraction.

The officials had the option to sustain the cross-checking major or reduce it to a minor; they could not flip to, say, a boarding call on the play.

The difference between a major and minor for cross-checking comes down to “the severity of the contact” with the major also including an automatic game misconduct.

After review, referees L’Ecuyer and O’Rourke dropped the call down to a minor penalty for cross-checking.

Rules analyst and retired NHL referee Don Koharski, who called the hit “dangerous and reckless”, looked at the officials’ decision.

“They’ve seen all kinds of angles… when the guy goes wide – see how wide he is there – and he brings it back and gets that see that little stutter step – they’re probably making a decision that that he was off balance from going wide to glide into the boards and there was not that full extension of a crosscheck but more of a half extension and a push.”

The NHL’s Department of Player Safety weighed in the following day, issuing a fine to Hagel for boarding.

It’s worth noting that, while the on-ice officials have to stick with their initial call when under review, Player Safety can consider any infractions on the play. In this case, they called out the dangerous nature of the hit.  Perhaps the cross-check itself wasn’t as violent, but it created a dangerous situation when delivered in close proximity to the boards.

The criteria is similar for cross-checking and boarding, even though the act is quite different; it’s a judgment call on the severity. Per Rule 41:  “A boarding penalty shall be imposed on any player who checks or pushes a defenseless opponent in such a manner that causes the opponent to hit or impact the boards violently or dangerously. The severity of the penalty, based upon the impact with the boards, shall be at the discretion of the Referee.” 

Hagel’s fine of $3,750 is the maximum allowable under the CBA without a formal hearing.

The Florida Panthers scored on the ensuing power play. Had the major penalty stood, the Panthers would’ve been on the power play for another 4:22. It would be their only goal of the game as they dropped Game 3 to the Lightning by a score of 5-1.

Referees for the game were Dan O’Rourke (#9) and Frederick L’Ecuyer (#17), with linesmen Steve Barton (#59) and Ryan Daisy (#81).