Buffalo forward Tyler Ennis was frustrated.  He was a -2 on the night.  He’d gone 3-for-11 in the faceoff circle. The Sabres were trailing by one and pushing hard for the tying goal late in the game.  With remaining time in single digits, defenseman Josh Gorges sent a hail mary pass up the ice with hopes of setting up one last shot.

As Ennis corralled the puck at the offensive blueline, linesman Derek Nansen blew the play dead for an offside.  Despite the 1.7 seconds remaining on the clock, the horn sounded.  The game was over.

Ennis skated along the boards.  As he passed Nansen, he took out his frustrations with a whack to Nansen’s left hand.

That hurt Nansen, who shook his hand in pain.  It’s not much of a shot, but the league takes any abuse of officials very seriously. It’s NHL Hockey Operations – not the Department of Player Safety – making the call on this one.

It was certainly enough for the on-ice officials – referees Marc Joannette and Chris Rooney – to slap Ennis with a Game Misconduct.  Rule 39.5 specifies that ‘any player who deliberately applies physical force in any manner against an official, in any manner attempts to injure an official […] shall receive a game misconduct penalty.’

That player is also subject to additional discipline under Rule 40 – Physical Abuse of Officials:

40.2 Automatic Suspension – Category I – Any player who deliberately strikes an official and causes injury or who deliberately applies physical force in any manner against an official with intent to injure, or who in any manner attempts to injure an official shall be automatically suspended for not less than twenty (20) games. (For the purpose of the rule, “intent to injure” shall mean any physical force which a player knew or should have known could reasonably be expected to cause injury.) 40

40.3 Automatic Suspension – Category II – Any player who deliberately applies physical force to an official in any manner (excluding actions as set out in Category I), which physical force is applied without intent to injure […], shall be automatically suspended for not less than ten (10) games.

40.4 Automatic Suspension – Category III – Any player who, by his actions, physically demeans an official or physically threatens an official by (but not limited to) throwing a stick or any other piece of equipment or object at or in the general direction of an official, shooting the puck at or in the general direction of an official […] shall be suspended for not less than three (3) games.

So what happens next?  The NHL rule book lays out the procedure.  The referees and linesmen will give  a verbal report to the NHL’s Director of Hockey Operations, which they’ll follow up with a formal, written version that will include which of the above categories was met, along with the requested punishment.  Tomorrow morning, the report will be shared with the player, team, and NHLPA.  A conference call will follow.  The officials or player can request the Commissioner weigh in on the proposed suspension, if any.

Until then, Ennis sits. We’ll have to wait and see for how long.

Update 11/8:  Ennis, who apologized for his actions after the game. will not receive any supplementary disciple after a review from Hockey Ops.

“I was a little frustrated,” Ennis told the Buffalo News this morning. “I just went to go talk to the linesman and tap him on the bum lightly, but I think I got his hand a little bit. He was a little upset, so I apologized after the game to him and the referees. Kinda just said I shouldn’t take my frustrations out on them. They’re just doing their job.”


(Thanks to @myregularface for the GIF via GIFGoldmine.com)