Yesterday, in his C’mon Ref blog for TSN, former NHL head referee Kerry Fraser put to rest an argument that has plagued ’90s movie fanboys for nearly 22 years. In the 1992 generational cornerstone “The Mighty Ducks,” was the Flying V a legal move?
The maneuver, where in the Ducks players mimic a V-shaped flying pattern and pass the puck between their skates, is meant to confuse and bewilder an opponent, thus allowing them to blow a shot past the keeper. In the film, it works, and the Mighty Ducks go on to beat the Hawks in the Minnesota peewee hockey championship. However, hockey experts have long accused the zero-to-hero team of being offsides as they entered the zone – which would negate the goal, their comeback, the victory, and the joy of countless childhoods.
However, in a benchmark decision for all nostalgic sports movies, Fraser ruled on the side of District 5, stating that the play was indeed onside as the team crossed into the offensive zone. Fraser, who presided over more than 1,900 regular season and 260 Stanley Cup playoff games before hanging ‘em up to pursue punditry, had this to say:
Upon further review the Mighty Ducks remained onside as the puck was advanced to Jessie Hall at the front of the Flying-V just prior to crossing their attacking blue line. The Flying-V moved up ice as Harry Hall of the Mighty Ducks carried the puck from a protected, safe and legal position at the back of the V. Just prior to gaining their attacking blue line, the puck was passed through the legs and onto the stick of the lead Duck in the V; #9 Jessie Hall.
After gaining possession of the puck, Jessie Hall advanced the puck across the leading edge of the blue line with his stick and then pulled up to protect the puck from defenders and to allow his wingers to attack the net. Once the puck crosses the leading edge of the blue line all attacking players are eligible to enter the zone and deemed to be on-side. It is also important to note that an attacking player’s skates and not that of his stick are the determining factor in all instances in deciding an off-side as per rule 83. A player is off-side when both skates are completely over the leading edge of the blue line prior to the puck crossing that same leading edge. Jessie Hall got the puck across the leading edge of the attacking blue line and his teammates then entered the zone legally on-side.
Further to this rule a player actually controlling the puck, who crosses the line ahead of the puck shall not be considered off-side. If the attacking player is deemed to have “possession and control” of the puck he can actually skate backwards across the blue line with the puck on his stick. (In this situation the player’s skates are allowed to cross the leading edge of the blue line prior to the puck!)
Thorough indeed. Fraser also delves deeper into the calls of the game to discuss Fulton Reed’s hit on the backcheck, the in-movie ref’s ruling that only a player on the ice can take the penalty shot, and even tying Goldberg to the net in practice. Though the C’mon Ref is typically devoted to weighing in on controversial calls during real-life hockey, one can only hope that Fraser will revisit this franchise to give the final word on whether the knucklepuck is legal or whether two minutes for roping was indeed the correct call in “D2: The Mighty Ducks.”
[S/t to Puckdaddy for the story.]