Washington Capitals forward Garnet Hathaway was ejected from Monday night’s game against Anaheim for spitting at Ducks defenseman Erik Gudbranson.
Late in the second period of a chippy game with the Caps leading 2-0, Washington’s Brendan Leipsic delivered a hard hit to Anaheim’s Derek Grant. No penalty was called on the hit, but the Ducks took exception, with three players going after Leipsic. Both teams converged, with Hathaway and Ducks center Derek Grant dropping their gloves and throwing punches before falling to the ice. Linesmen Ryan Gibbons and Kory Nagy jumped in to break up the fracas, with referee Wes McCauley on top of the situation, taking names for the box.
Oh, and through all this, the Capitals scored to increase their lead to 3-0.
Both teams kept going at each other as the officials attempted to separate the players. Referee Peter MacDougall stepped between Hathaway and Gudbranson as the linesman attempted to restrain Anaheim’s Nick Ritchie.
As MacDougall turned his head to relay a message to the other officials, Hathaway took advantage of the situation, reached over, and unhooked the chinstrap from Gudbranson’s helmet. This season, that’s a minor penalty for roughing. Gudbranson responded with a punch. Hathaway spit back. Tempers flared, but the officials were able to keep the teams apart. Instead of sending Hathaway to the box, he headed right for the dressing room.
“The refs were trying to break it up,” said Hathaway. “It felt like there was a couple sucker punches thrown and I got there one quick and then reacted a little emotionally and unfortunately spit came out of my mouth after I got sucker punched and it went on to him.”
“It has no place,” Hathaway added. “It was an emotional play by me. You don’t plan any of that stuff in your head and it was a quick reaction and unfortunately the wrong one for me to a sucker punch.”
In total, 55 penalty minutes were handed out as a result of the altercations. Hathaway and Ritchie went off for fighting, Leipsic and Guhle both got double-minors for roughing, Gudbranson picked up a minor and a ten, Ritchie earned a game for being the third man in to the altercation, and Hathaway was hit with a match.
There’s no question Hathaway deserved to be tossed for his actions. The rule book, though, doesn’t specifically call out spitting under match penalties. Instead, that’s classified as a potential game misconduct.
23.8 Other Infractions That Could Result in a Game Misconduct – In addition, the following list of infractions can also result in a game misconduct penalty being assessed:
(i) interfering with or striking a spectator.
(ii) racial taunts or slurs
(iii) spitting on or at an opponent or spectator
The NHL Rule Book spells out which plays may result in a match penalty.
It’s worth noting that Gudbranson dodged getting tossed under (xiv) above, since Hathaway was not injured as a result of the punch.
Washington Capitals head coach Todd Reirden stood beside his gritty winger’s response to the incident.
— Tarik El-Bashir (@Tarik_ElBashir) November 19, 2019
Hathaway is slated to have a hearing with the league on Wednesday morning. No details on whether the NHL is considering a fine or suspension, or whether the match penalty may be formally rescinded in favor of a game misconduct. We’re expecting a fine.
Referees for the game were Wes McCauley (#4) and Peter MacDougall (#38). Linesmen were Ryan Gibbons (#58) and Kory Nagy (#97).