Boston Bruins forward Zac Rinaldo delivered a hard hit — but dodged a bullet by avoiding supplemental discipline.

Rinaldo was given a major penalty for charging and a game misconduct by referees Marc Joannette and TJ Luxmore. The gritty winger sat for the rest of the game and awaited his fate – and potentially how many more games he’d miss – once the play was reviewed by the Department of Player Safety. 

The verdict came down Thursday afternoon. Rinaldo would not face further punishment. From the Department of Player Safety: 


From the NHL:

Rinaldo finishes his check, leveling Couturier with a punishing hit. For the purposes of supplemental discipline, we analyzed this hit for four possible infractions. 

This is not elbowing. Rinaldo’s arm is tucked close to his body at all times. It never extends outward or upward while delivering this hit. 

This is not interference. While players without the puck are ineligible to be checked, the interference rule allows for a brief window in which players who have already initiated a hit are permitted to finish their check. Rinaldo initiates this hit while Couturier has the puck. Contact is made within an allowable timeframe to finish the check. 

This is not an illegal check to the head. Rule 48.1 (i) permits head contact that occurs when “the player attempted to hit squarely through the opponent’s body and the head was not “picked” as a result of poor timing, poor angle of approach, or unnecessary extension of the body upward or outward.”  Here Rinaldo takes an excellent angle of approach, hitting directly through Couturier’s body. While there is head contact here, the head is not the main point of contact. 

For the purposes of supplemental discipline, this is not charging. Charging is defined as a player who skates or jumps into, or charges an opponent in any manner. While Rinaldo does come off the ice slightly after the hit, he does not launch into Couturier in an excessive manner. His body stays low, and there’s no significant gap between his skates and the ice. 

It is important to note that while Rinaldo has an extensive history of supplemental discipline, that history only comes into play when it is determined that a hit is worthy of supplemental discipline. The hit itself is evaluated on its own merit, not on the player delivering the check. 

That last part is an important one. Player Safety reviews the hit in question, without regard for the player making the hit or his suspension history.  Only after an offense is deemed to be suspendable, does a player’s history come in. At that point, Player Safety will look at the player’s full rap sheet to determine the length of the suspension. 

Keep in mind that the ‘repeat offender’ status applies only to how fines and salary loss are calculated. Player Safety considers a player’s full disciplinary history. 

Former NHL referee Kerry Fraser disagreed with the league’s ruling

Rinaldo charged a considerable distance from the goal to above the hash marks to deliver a late hit (the puck had been redirected by Couturier back toward the blueline.) The intended check was delivered with 1.1 seconds remaining in the period. Given the minimal time remaining, coupled with the fact that the puck was no longer in the area, the excessive hit had no beneficial consequence on the play other than to inflict needless punishment on Couturier, who was in a vulnerable position.

I deem the charge and the upward velocity generated by Rinaldo through the hit to be not only needless but a reckless and dangerous decision.

There’s no question this hit was dangerous.  From Player Safety’s standpoint, though, it wasn’t suspendable.

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