Buffalo Sabres goaltender Aaron Dell has been suspended three games for interference.
As Ottawa’s Drake Batherson skated behind the net in pursuit of the puck, Dell stuck out his elbow, catching Batherson up high. The Senators’ leading scorer crashed awkwardly into the boards.
No penalty was called on the play, which happened with 1:03 remaining in the first period with the Sabres trailing 3-0.
“If I see that, I’m calling a two-minute penalty for interference,” retired NHL referee Tim Peel told Daily Faceoff. “As an official, if I’m aware this goaltender has done similar things in the past, my antennas will be up during the game.”
A goaltender is not fair game out of his crease, which is something Dell took advantage of by putting himself in the way of the puck.
“I was just trying to buy some time for my defenseman and step into [Batherson’s] lane,” Dell said after the game.
The problem was that he didn’t just get in the way — he delivered a hit.
“You never really expect that,” Ottawa’s Brady Tkachuk said. “The rule is you’re not supposed to be in contact with [the goalie] and goalies shouldn’t feel they’re invincible and able to throw hits to you. It’s a bad play and it shouldn’t happen. No other goalie does that.”
It’s also not the first time he’s done so.
In September 2019, then with the San Jose Sharks, Dell leveled Vega Golden Knights forward Mark Stone with a similar hit.
Aaron Dell hit Mark Stone with a pretty gnarly elbow. pic.twitter.com/04QYjR3w7i
— Knights On Ice (@knightsonice) September 30, 2019
Dell also picked up a minor penalty for interference earlier this month in a game against the Nashville Predators.
Aaron Dell gets charged with interference. You don’t see that everyday pic.twitter.com/M3bYnkhFKr
— The Charging Buffalo (@TheChargingBUF) January 14, 2022
He’s even managed to avoid penalties on some aggressive stickwork, with his team trailing 8-2 in this 2018 game against the Calgary Flames.
“I don’t like calling out other goalies. But they’re not expecting to get hit by a goalie,” said Senators goaltender Matt Murray. “That’s a dangerous play that turns out to be an unfortunate result – one of our best players goes down.”
Batherson was injured on the play and did not return to the game.
“That sucks,” Dell said of Batherson’s injury. “I really didn’t want to hurt anybody, and I hope he’s all right.”
Here’s the official ruling from the NHL’s Department of Player Safety:
Sabres goaltender Aaron Dell delivered a high shoulder check to Senators forward Drake Batherson while Batherson was not a possession of the puck causing an injury. As the video shows, Dell plays the puck behind the net. leaving it for a teammate as Batherson comes in on the forecheck with speed. As Batherson attempts to cut around Dell and toward the puck carrier, Dell steps into his path, readies his arm, and delivers a hard shoulder check that causes Batherson to fall dangerously and with force into the boards causing an injury.
This is interference.
It is important to note that this is a body check, not merely a collision. Dell is looking up ice and is aware of the path Batherson is taking in order to avoid contact with Dell. Dell is the player who initiates the contact on this play. This is also not a mere pick play or a last second brace for impact in which a player impedes the path of his opponent without substantial force. Dell takes an active step into Batherson, shifting his weight and delivering a hit to an unsuspecting player that causes a dangerous fall into the boards.
Finally, it is also important to note that Batherson does not have the puck and is therefore not eligible to be checked on this play in any manner. Batherson does not and should not expect the shoulder check from Dell in this situation, much less a high hard shoulder delivered as Batherson travels towards the boards with speed.
In determining a suspension, Player Safety first determines if the act itself is suspendable. If it is, they then consider the player’s history – suspensions and fines, as well as other dangerous plays, even if they didn’t result in penalties – as well as the outcome of the play, including any injuries.
Dell has not previously been fined nor suspended. He forfeits $11,250 as a result of the suspension.
Buffalo’s netminder becomes the first goaltender to be suspended since Jamie McLennan sat for five games for slashing in 2007. McLennan retired before his time was served.
Ottawa went on to win the game 5-0.
Referees were Pierre Lambert (#37) and Kendrick Nicholson (#30). Linesmen were Jonathan Deschamps (#80) and Andrew Smith (#51).