Colorado Avalanche forward Ross Colton picked up 17 minutes in penalties on a single play after boarding New Jersey’s Luke Hughes and cross-checking Timo Meier in the face.

He’s also been fined $5,000 for the cross-check by the NHL’s Department of Player Safety; no supplemental discipline has been handed out for the initial hit on Hughes.

Colton’s initial penalty was for boarding Hughes. With the teams skating 4-on-4 midway through the second period, the two players were pursuing a loose puck deep in the Devils’ end. As they neared the end boards, Colton shoved Hughes into the boards. Referee Frederick L’Ecuyer’s arm immediately went up for the boarding penalty. 

The Devils converged on Colton after the hit. The Colorado forward got his stick up, delivering a cross-check to Meier’s face. As linesmen Kiel Murchison and Jonny Murray separated the two teams, L’Ecuyer and ref Graham Skilliter sorted out the calls. 

The call – or calls, as it were – on the ice were both on Colton: a penalty for boarding and a major penalty for the cross-check. 



With the cross-checking major called, the officials took a moment to review the play to confirm or reduce the penalty.

It’s not clear if the initial boarding call was a major or a minor. In order for it to be reviewable, it would have to have been a major called on the ice. As L’Ecuyer didn’t elaborate on the review, there’s no confirmation as to whether the boarding call was a major penalty that was reduced to a minor after review, or if it was a minor penalty called on the ice and therefore ineligible to review. 

After review, L’Ecuyer announced the outcome: a minor for boarding, five-and-a-game for high-sticking.

Boarding is covered under 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.

There is an enormous amount of judgment involved in the application of this rule by the Referees. The onus is on the player applying the check to ensure his opponent is not in a defenseless position and if so, he must avoid or minimize contact. However, in determining whether such contact could have been avoided, the circumstances of the check, including whether the opponent put himself in a vulnerable position immediately prior to or simultaneously with the check or whether the check was unavoidable can be considered. This balance must be considered by the Referees when applying this rule.

The difference between a minor or major penalty for boarding is based on the “degree of violence of the impact with the boards,” based on the referee’s judgment. If it’s an attempt to injure, it would be a match penalty. 

The cross-checking standard – Rule 59 – is similar:

[Cross-checking is defined as ] the action of using the shaft of the stick between the two hands to forcefully check an opponent.

A minor [or major] penalty, at the discretion of the Referee based on the severity of the contact, shall be imposed on a player who “cross checks” an opponent. When a major penalty is assessed for cross-checking, an automatic game misconduct penalty shall be imposed on the offending player.

The Referee, at his discretion, may assess a match penalty if, in his judgment, the player attempted to or deliberately injured his opponent by cross-checking.


Colorado Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar disagreed with the calls.

“I don’t know. I mean, he’s forechecking hard,” said Bednar. “I saw it very similar to the Wood hit [on the Devils’ Siegenthaler]. The guy’s trying to wheel the net, we’re cutting him off. There’s gonna be contact, you know? I think the difference was Hughes, last second he tries to turn out of it without the puck, so it didn’t look good. He gave him two; I’ll live with the call.”

“Meier turns back to go at Colton, and he’s coming at him with his stick high. You’ve got to defend yourself, and your stick’s got to go up unless you want to take one in the teeth. So, it’s what he does. It’s a reaction play to me. I didn’t think that deserved a five. I don’t like the call to five, but, you try and live through it.”


New Jersey would score twice on the seven-minute power play – which started as a 5-on-3 due to an existing Avs penalty for too-many-men, with the Avs also netting a shorthanded goal from former Devil Miles Wood.

The NHL’s Department of Player Safety is reviewing both plays for possible supplemental discipline. No word on if they’ll take further action.

The Colorado Avalanche went on to win the game 6-4. Referees were Frederick L’Ecuyer (#17) and Graham Skilliter (#24), with Kiel Murchison (#79) and Jonny Murray (#95) on lines.