When your team is trailing by a goal late in a playoff game, the last thing you want to do is take a penalty — especially an unnecessary one. If you do, though, don’t compound it by blasting the officials with offensive, homophobic slurs. 

It all started when Chicago’s Andrew Shaw knocked down defenseman Jay Bouwmeester of the St. Louis Blues, picking up an interference call late in Game 4 from ref Chris Rooney.  

Frustrated by the call – made with 2:04 to go with the Blues leading 4-3 – Shaw let loose on referees Rooney and Francois St. Laurent.  

First came the inappropriate gestures — a “double-shot”, if you will, of matching hand gestures.   Once in the box, Shaw followed up with some colorful language, apparently directed toward the official on the other side of the penalty box door.


The NHL rulebook does allow for players to be penalized for verbal abuse of officials, per Rule 39, which states, in part: 

A player … shall not challenge or dispute the rulings of an official before, during or after a game. A player … shall not display unsportsmanlike conduct including, but not limited to, obscene, profane or abusive language or gestures, comments of a personal nature intended to degrade an official, or persist in disputing a ruling after being told to stop or after being penalized for such behavior.

A minor penalty is handed out to “any identifiable player who uses obscene, profane or abusive language or gestures directed at any on or off-ice official.”  Continued offenses will result in escalation to a misconduct, then a game misconduct penalty. 

Shaw did not receive further penalties for his reaction, though he later picked up roughing, unsportsmanlike conduct, and a game misconduct for a post-whistle scrum.  

“I mean, emotions are high, I really don’t know what’s said,” Shaw said after the game, as reported in the Chicago Tribune. “I was obviously upset with the call being that late in the game [since] it doesn’t give us a chance to tie it up.”

After reviewing the evening’s events, the NHL suspended Shaw for one game.  He was also fined $5,000 and required to complete sensitivity training. 

“While Mr. Shaw was apologetic and remorseful for both the offensive comments and the inappropriate gesture directed at the on-ice officials, he must be held accountable for his actions,” said NHL Senior Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell, via league statement. “The emotion of the moment cannot and will not be a mitigating factor for the conduct that is expected of an NHL player.”

While the league spells out penalties for physical abuse of officials under Rule 40, there’ 

Shaw addressed the media prior to Game 5:

I wanted to apologize for my actions — I have no excuses for anything. I want to apologize to the gay and lesbian community. That’s not the type of guy I am.

This is hard for me. I saw the video last night. I had a tough time sleeping. What got to me is [that] I let my emotions get the better of me. I want to apologize to the organization, the NHL, my teammates, my family, my friends.  I want to say I’m sorry.  It’s a tough time for me right now.  

I’ll never use that word again that’s for sure. It’s 216, now, it’s time for everyone to be treated equally.  It’s a hurtful word, I know that. I am sorry and I wanted to apologize. 

The Chicago Blackhawks also released a statement: 

We are extremely disappointed in Andrew Shaw’s actions last night. His comments do not reflect what we stand for as an organization. We are proud to have an inclusive and respectful environment, and to support various initiatives such as the You Can Play Project and the Chicago Gay Hockey Association. We will use this opportunity to further educate our players and organization moving forward, so that we all may learn from it.”

It’s good to see the league set an example, though it does seem a bit puzzling to mete out the same penalty for offensive, abusive language as for a dangerous hit from behind

In any case, let’s hope that Andrew Shaw has learned his lesson, and that all those in lower-level leagues also understand that such language is simply not acceptable.