Hey Mac, you can’t chuck a bucket. Rule 53 says so.
Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon did just that on Wednesday night, wrestling off Conor Garland’s helmet before throwing it back to him.Avs’ MacKinnon Gets Misconduct for Thowing Helmet
The battle came with 5:19 remaining in the third period, with the Avs leading the Coyotes 8-3.
MacKinnon picked up 14 penalty minutes on the play. Both players received matching minor penalties for the altercation.
The Avs captain was given two minutes for removing Garland’s helmet, based on a recent change to the helmets rule (Rule 9.6) that’s also covered under roughing.
9.6 – A player who intentionally removes an opponent’s helmet during play shall be assessed a minor penalty for roughing (See Rule 51).
51.2 – A minor penalty shall be imposed … if a player intentionally removes an opponent’s helmet during play pursuant to Rule 9.6.
MacKinnon was also given a 10-minute misconduct for the toss.
Curiously, it doesn’t appear that he was assessed a penalty under the actual rule that bans throwing equipment.
53.1 Throwing Equipment – A player shall not throw a stick or any other object in any zone.
53.2 Minor Penalty – A minor penalty shall be imposed … on any player on the ice who throws [any] object in the direction of the puck or an opponent in any zone
53.4 Misconduct Penalty – A misconduct penalty shall be imposed on a player who unintentionally or accidentally throws his stick or any part thereof or any other object or piece of equipment outside the playing area.
53.5 Game Misconduct Penalty – A game misconduct penalty shall be imposed on a player who intentionally throws his stick or any part thereof or any other object or piece of equipment outside the playing area.
53.6 Match Penalty – If a player attempts to or deliberately injures an opponent by throwing a stick or any other object or piece of equipment at an opposing player, he shall be
assessed a match penalty. If injury results from the thrown object, a match penalty must be assessed for deliberate injury of an opponent.
Clearly, MacKinnon was in violation of 53.1 and could’ve picked up another minor there. With the helmet not leaving the playing surface, 53.4 and 53.5 don’t apply.
The underhand toss was unlikely to be considered an attempt to injure, which pulls 53.6 off the table.
Instead, the officials appeared to take advantage of the general leeway granted around Unsportsmanlike Conduct penalties to effectively remove MacKinnon for the remainder of the game. The penalty, though, did not result in an additional loss of manpower on the ice for the Avs, which frustrated Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet.
“I thought if you did that you got some kind of … I don’t know if it would have mattered, but maybe get some more minutes on the power play,” said Tocchet. “Keep those guys off the score sheet.”
The Avs found their way to the score sheet once more, tacking on one more goal before the final buzzer, winning 9-3.
Will Player Safety weigh in?
There is precedent for disciplinary action for players using an opponent’s helmet as a weapon.
New York Rangers winger Chris Kreider was fined $5000 for hitting Cody Eakin with his helmet during a fight in 2017.
Back in 2010, Mark Fistric of the Dallas Stars was fined $2,500 for hitting Calgary’s Eric Nystrom with his own helmet.
Florida’s Willie Mitchell got away with one after a 2014 helmet hit on Penguing blueliner Kris Letang.
Over in the EIHL, a 2015 incident saw Edinburgh’s Joe Grimaldi remove his own helmet and throw it at an opponent prior to a scrap. That incident, which also included a spear from Grimaldi, resulted in an 18-game suspension.
While we don’t expect the NHL to sit MacKinnon for this, we do anticipate he’ll be receiving a call — and a $5000 fine.
Colorado Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar agrees.
“I would think that the misconduct would cover it,” said Bednar. “You see a few instances like that in the past. He might be a little bit lighter in the wallet, maybe, but I would think that would probably be it.”
Gentlemanly Play, Indeed
MacKinnon’s 14 penalty minutes Thursday night fell just short of a single game career-high. MacKinnon piled up 15 penalty minutes – also against the Coyotes in a blowout win – on December 23, 2017. Over the course of his career, 60 of his 221 penalty minutes – 27% – have come against the Coyotes.
He racked up just 12 penalty minutes total in 69 games last season, en rout to winning the NHL’s Lady Byng Memorial Trophy. The award is handed out annually to the player “adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability.”
He may have just blown his chance at a repeat.
UPDATE: MacKinnon has been fined $5000 for unsportsmanlike conduct on the play by the NHL’s Department of Player Safety.
Referees for the game were Chris Lee (#28) and Piere Lambert (#37). Linesmen were Kyle Flemington (#55) and Matt MacPherson (#83).