The NHL made some minor rule changes coming into the season to try to crack down on diving, including more fines and the threat of publicizing known divers. The first of those fines – and public notice – have taken place.
Nashville Predators forward James Neal is the first to receive a fine for embellishment. He’s been slapped with a $2,000 fine. The amount may not be significant for a guy who makes $5 million a year, but it does get his name on the list of known divers.
The fine comes as a result of his second violation of the NHL’s new diving guidelines, which happened on December 13 against the San Jose Sharks. Neal was flagged for diving by referee Frederick L’Ecuyer late in the third period of a 2-0 Predators loss.
Neal received a warning for his first offense, which happened on November 13 against the St. Louis Blues. He was not called for an embellishment penalty on the play. Blues forward Steve Ott was given a minor for interference. As with Neal’s embellishment against the Sharks, he immediately pulled up his feet, landing on his knees.
As a reminder, here’s the league’s new scale for diving/embellishment penalties:
Neal’s the first player to hit two citations. So how many guys have been cited so far?
According to Sportsnet’s Damien Cox, the league has warned a total of 22 players this season. That includes players who were not called for diving during the game but whose infraction was identified through video review by the league.
The Diving/Embellishment Review Process
The NHL’s Hockey Operations department tracks every diving or embellishment penalty called on the ice. They also review each game to identify possible dives that were missed by the on-ice officials. (In some cases, they even rescind those diving penalties that may have been called during a game. Boston’s Brad Marchand was the beneficiary of such a modification.)
Once the Hockey Ops team agrees that a dive has taken place, they issue a citation. Cox reports that there are nine individuals who participate in the review of each incident. If six decide that a dive has taken place, the player is cited.
So far this season, that amounts to 22 warnings and one fine. Those certainly won’t be last. A total of 49 embellishment penalties have been handed out so far this season, two to Evgeni Malkin. The question is: who’s next?