After NHL commissioner Gary Bettman upheld the eight-game suspension levied by the Department of Player Safety, Colorado’s Nazem Kadri had only one place to go: independent arbitrator Shyam Das.
Das has handled arbitration cases for the NHL since 2018. In the past, he’s reduced suspensions to Tom Wilson (20 games to 14) and Austin Watson (27 games to 18), and argued credit for ‘time served’ to Slava Voynov, effectively reducing the future length of his suspension. Das replaced arbitrator James Oldham, who was fired by the NHL after he reduced the suspension to Calgary’s Dennis Wideman from 20 games to 10 for attacking linesman Don Henderson.
In Kadri’s case, Das reaffirmed the ruling offered by Player Safety, keeping Kadri sidelined for eight games.
From the on-ice officials’ post-game report:
At 13:30 of the third period, #91 N. Kadri (Colorado) delivered a hit on #72 J. Faulk (St-Louis). The hit was delivered right after Faulk shot the puck on net. It was a high hit from the blind side that made direct contact with Faulk’s head. As a result of the infraction, Faulk was injured on the play. He laid on the ice for a few minutes, left the game and did not return.
Kadri’s team argued that the eight-game suspension was excessive, instead arguing for a four-game ban.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman disagreed, saying, in part:
[H]ead checks are a matter of great concern to the League, our Clubs and our Players. Violations of Rule 48 are among the most serious Playing Rule infractions in the game….
Mr. Kadri has played in the NHL for more than eleven (11) years. He testified that he is familiar with and understands Rule 48, and that he regards it as an important rule.
Simply stated, Rule 48 is — and has been for many years — an important and integral part of the Playing Rules governing the game. As such, the overwhelming majority of Players complete their career without ever once violating the rule. By contrast, those Players — like Mr. Kadri — who have violated Rule 48 multiple times during their careers (and have been suspended multiple times for penalties involving opposing Players’ heads) stand out.
Mr. Kadri’s conduct violated Rule 48. Both Mr. Kadri and the NHLPA acknowledged that violation. Moreover, as Mr. Parros indicated, it is not a “close call” that Mr. Kadri violated Rule 48. Even if I accept as true Mr. Kadri’s contention that he did not intend to make head contact with Mr. Faulk (or to injure him), his actions were nonetheless reckless. It is no excuse to say that Mr. Faulk was eligible to be hit. Mr. Kadri chose a poor angle of approach towards Mr. Faulk and, to make matters worse, as he delivered the check, he elevated his shoulder up and into Mr. Faulk’s head, which was not necessary to deliver the check. The force used was excessive and manifested a disregard for the safety of the opposing Player.
Mr. Faulk suffered a concussion on the play. As indicated above, he missed the remainder of Game Two and the final two remaining playoff games.
Mr. Kadri’s prior supplementary discipline history is relevant to my analysis…. The goal of supplementary discipline is not simply to punish conduct that is in violation of League Rules, but also to deter future misconduct. This is Mr. Kadri’s sixth suspension in his NHL career — three (3) of which have come during the last four (4) Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Bettman went on to cite Kadri’s previous run-ins with the law, including hits to the head of Niklas Backstrom, Matt Fraser, Luke Glendening, and Jake DeBrusk, along with a boarding suspension for a hit on Tommy Wingels.
Although several different rule violations were called on the above incidents, each involved a common element, critical to my analysis in the instant matter: in each case, there was forceful contact involving the head of an opponent, three (3) of which caused an injury to the opposing Player.
As noted in the [Player Safety] suspension video and at the hearing, Mr. Kadri has a significant history of supplementary discipline. As recited above, this is Mr. Kadri’s sixth suspension for on-ice misconduct during his NHL career — all involving hits impacting the head of an opposing Player.
Mr. Kadri admits that he is aware of the significance of Rule 48, and the need to play within the confines of the Rules. However, he has consistently failed to do so during his career. Indeed, it is troubling that Mr. Kadri has committed significant offenses resulting in suspensions during three (3) of the last four (4) Stanley Cup Playoffs in which he has participated, representing a clear and recent pattern of on-ice misconduct over the last several years.
It is clear that Mr. Kadri continues to disregard the safety and wellbeing of opponents and has not adequately received the message.
The NHLPA fought back, calling the hit a “responsible defensive play” and citing lesser suspensions to Tom Wilson, Radko Gudas, Brad Marchand, and Zac Rinaldo as justification for a reduction in Kadri’s ban.
Das, in reevaluating the evidence, agreed with the commissioner’s decision.
The Commissioner addressed all the factors [in the case]. He concluded that, even if Kadri did not intend to make head contact with Faulk (or to
injure him), Kadri’s actions were reckless and involved the use of excessive and unnecessary force. Review of the video released by the DPS supports the Commissioner’s determination
that: “Mr. Kadri chose a poor angle of approach towards Mr. Faulk and, to make matters worse, as he delivered the check, he elevated his shoulder up and into Mr. Faulk’s head, which was not necessary to deliver the check.”
Although the NHLPA argues that it was a responsible defensive play, that was merely off by inches, Parros’ testimony that it was a clear-cut, forceful and significant violation of Article 48 [Illegal Checks to the Head] is both credible and supportive of the conclusions reached by the Commissioner. There is no dispute that the opposing player, Faulk, suffered a concussion which caused him to miss the two remaining games played by his Club before it was eliminated from the playoffs. The key factor in the Commissioner’s decision to uphold the lengthy 8-game suspension issued to Kadri by the [Department of Player Safety] was his history of supplementary discipline. That history is substantial.
The Commissioner’s decision affirming the decision of the DPS suspending Nazem Kadri for 8 games is supported by substantial evidence. Accordingly, this appeal is denied.
Should the Avalanche move on to the next round, Kadri would be eligible to return for Game 3 or 4 against the Montreal Canadiens.