Calgary Flames winger Ryan Lomberg has been automatically suspended for one game for instigating a fight in the final five minutes of regulation. Flames head coach Bill Peters has also been fined $10,000.
Lomberg was hit with an instigator penalty by referees Dan O’Halloran and Pierre Lambert in the final minute of Thursday night’s game against the Minnesota Wild. The Flames winger left the bench and went after Minnesota’s Matt Dumba.
The NHL defines an instigator as “a player who by his actions or demeanor demonstrates any/some of the following criteria: distance traveled; gloves off first; first punch thrown; menacing attitude or posture; verbal instigation or threats; conduct in retaliation to a prior game (or season) incident; obvious retribution for a previous incident in the game or season.”
Lomberg’s attack appeared to be in response to a clean, hard hit delivered by Dumba moments earlier that sent Calgary’s Mikael Backlund to the locker room for evaluation. Lomberg left the bench and headed straight for Dumba, dropping his gloves and throwing punches. No penalties were assessed to Dumba for the hit or for the altercation.
“Dumba’s hit, the guy was facing him, had his head down a little bit,” said Wild coach Bruce Boudreau. “Good hockey hit to me. The other part, guy comes flying off the bench. I don’t know if he was sent out or not because he’s certainly not playing the last minute and a half of the game no matter what the score is, so we’ll have to let the NHL make a decision.”
While instigating typically results in an minor penalty, a five-minute major for fighting, and a ten-minute misconduct, the penalties are more severe when the incident takes place in overtime or in the final five minutes of regulation.
From Rule 46.12:
A player who is deemed to be the instigator of an altercation in the final five (5) minutes of regulation time or at any time in overtime shall be assessed an instigator minor penalty, a major penalty for fighting, and a game misconduct penalty, subject to the conditions outlined in 46.22.
A player who is deemed to be the instigator of an altercation in the final five (5) minutes of regulation time or at anytime in overtime, shall be suspended for one game, pending a review of the incident.
When the one-game suspension is imposed, the Coach shall be fined $10,000 – a fine that will double for each subsequent incident.
The suspension shall be served unless, upon review of the incident, the Director of Hockey Operations, at his discretion, deems the incident is not related to the score, previous incidents in the game or prior games, retaliatory in nature, “message sending”, etc. The length of suspension will double for each subsequent offense. This suspension shall be served in addition to any other automatic suspensions a player may incur for an accumulation of three or more instigator penalties. No team appeals will be permitted either verbally or in writing regarding the assessment of this automatic suspension as all incidents are reviewed by the Director of Hockey Operations as outlined above.
While Lomberg waits to hear the league’s ruling, Player Safety has already cleared Dumba of any wrongdoing. The Athletic’s Michael Russo reports that the league deemed it a clean hit, noting that Backlund’s head was not the main point of contact though there was incidental head contact, and that Dumba’s skates did not leave the ice until after contact and his elbows remained tucked in.
Possible Suspension for Legal Line Change to Join Altercation
Lomberg will also have a hearing today with the NHL’s Department of Player Safety for making a legal line change for the purposes of starting an altercation. League penalties are much more severe for leaving the bench illegally to begin or join an altercation – an automatic 10 game suspension – but the NHL will also review situations where the player entered the playing surface legally, as was the case with Lomberg.
70.2 Legal Line Change – A player who has entered the game while play is in progress from his own players’ bench or legally from the penalty bench (penalty time has expired) who starts an altercation may be subject to discipline in accordance with Rule 28 – Supplementary Discipline.
Rule 28, referenced above, grants permission to the Commissioner to investigate the incident and levy additional fines or suspensions as a result.
In 2014, San Jose Sharks forward John Scott was suspended two games for a similar incident where he left the bench legally to go after Anaheim’s Tim Jackman. Scott came on the ice and, rather than joining the play, made a beeline for Jackman.