Questionable Call on Garnet Hathaway Looms Large in Flyers' Overtime Loss to Devils
Near the end of the first period, Flyers coach John Tortorella stepped over the bench to get right up against the boards to talk to referee Francis Charron.
He was going to have more than a few choice words and he wanted to make sure Charron heard every last one of them.
It wasn’t a great period up to that point anyway for the Flyers. They gave up a goal early in the frame that upset Torts so much he sat Joel Farabee on the bench for the rest of the game. Farabee took one shift. Torts wouldn’t say what he did wrong, just that he didn’t listen.
New Jersey goal!
Scored by Alexander Holtz with 16:50 remaining in the 1st period.
Assisted by Michael McLeod and Colin Miller.
— NHL Goals (@nhl_goal_bot) December 1, 2023
Of course, if you watch the play, you see that Flyers defenseman Travis Sanheim had already gotten deep in the offensive zone, meaning Farabee is the high forward who has to cover for him. Farabee instead gambles and tries to sneak past Michael McLeod to keep the puck in the zone. He whiffs, and the Devils start a breakout with an odd-man rush.
Scott Laughton hustles back to cover for Farabee and Sanheim busts it to try and get back to cover the trailer, Alexander Holtz, who ends up scoring the goal just 3:10 into the game, all the while Farabee trails the play.
(Quick aside, we knew the game was over right there. Never mind the nice comeback effort. The Flyers are now 11-1-0 when they score first, and 0-9-2 when the other team scores first. Crazy.)
Having already made up his mind that Farabee wasn’t going to play the rest of the game and having watched another odd-man rush result in a second New Jersey goal, Torts was already feeling a little perturbed with how the night was going.
But then when the officials screw up and don’t know what to call on the ice, and then make the wrong call, well… that was enough to set Torts off.
It all happened on a borderline icing call that probably shouldn’t have been one in the first place. But it was called one anyway. The problem is, the whistle was late, so Flyers forward Garnet Hathaway kept doing his job and absolutely obliterated Luke Hughes with a shoulder-to-shoulder check an instant before the whistle blew.
The hit looked worse because of the late icing call, and barreling into someone on a potential icing went away with the no-touch icing rule change several years ago.
Here’s what it looked like:
Brian Boucher explains it perfectly. Hathaway is playing to the whistle. He’s not going to let up because he assumes the icing was waved off.
And as you can see, Torts was none too happy.
He was none too happy after the game either, a game the Flyers essentially played with 10 forwards with Hathaway ejected and Farabee serving as a doorman on the bench, and one which they scrapped and clawed their way back from two different two goal deficits in regulation only to lose 4-3 in overtime when, yep, you guessed it, Luke Hughes, the same guy who was injured on the hit thus drawing the larger, stiffer penalty on Hathaway, scored the game-winner.
New Jersey goal!
Scored by Luke Hughes with 04:32 remaining in the OT period.
Assisted by Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier.
— NHL Goals (@nhl_goal_bot) December 1, 2023
“I have no idea what they told me,” Torts said. “It was a clean hit.”
Later he added, “When we killed that five-minute penalty, which never should have been a five-minute penalty – which never should have been a penalty… that’s the hump we had to finally get over. You could sense that we could at least have an opportunity to get back into the game.”
Crossing Broad was told that Flyers brass had a conversation with the in-arena head of officiating between periods and discussed the call on Hathaway. They would have been content with a minor penalty for boarding. The major was a total miss by the on-ice officials – and mostly because in the moment, they didn’t know what to call, thus the huddle over at the penalty box.
It appeared they called it a major penalty only because Hughes left the ice injured. Which, as we all know in the wonderful world of hockey, the perceived outcome of a penalty determines the severity of it.
For example, I swing my stick blade too high and catch you in the mouth with it, it’s going to be a two-minute penalty if there’s no blood but four or five minutes if there is blood – as if the amount of blood is a measure of my carelessness and inability to control my stick.
Same thing last night. If Luke Hughes pops up off the ice and starts jawing with Hathaway, it’s likely a minor penalty. But because he skates off injured, the refs immediately call a major, and then double down on their misinterpretation after reviewing the video, which also had to eat at Torts a bit.
Of course, Luke Hughes returned at the start of the second period looking no worse for the wear. While he was down the tunnel in the aftermath of the hit, even his brother, Jack Hughes, whose team was gaining an advantage of a 5-minute power play, had some choice words for the linesmen who didn’t call the icing in time:
— Daniel Amoia (@daniel_amoia) December 1, 2023
At least the refs caught this penalty in the third period on Brendan Smith:
Brendan Smith has a hearing today for this slash on Travis Konecny
— Nasty Knuckles (@NastyKnuckles) December 1, 2023
But, you know, intentionally swinging a weapon with both hands to make contact with it on another human is only worth two minutes in the box. Maybe Travis Konecny should have acted like he lost a limb. Maybe then the Flyers would have won. With only two minutes of power play time, the Flyers only tied the score, not win it, on a Tyson Foerster redirect of a Scott Laughton shot. But hey, it got them a point.
For what it’s worth, Smith has a hearing with the NHL for that penalty, and rightfully so.
We discussed it all on the Snow the Goalie Press Row Show, which streams live from just outside the sports book on the balcony level of the Wells Fargo Center pregame, during both intermissions, and postgame of every home game. Check it out (you can fast forward through the game center screen, which is up while the game is being played).