Colorado Avalanche forward Nathan MacKinnon appeared to slash linesman Michel Cormier after losing a faceoff.
After the Boston Bruins scored to go up 5-1, MacKinnon lined up for the ensuing draw — and lost. The Bruins controlled the puck and MacKinnon swung his stick in frustration.
No penalty was called on the play. Here’s the rule on physical abuse of officials:
Any player who deliberately applies physical force in any manner against an official, in any manner attempts to injure an official, physically demeans, or deliberately applies physical force to an official solely for the purpose of getting free of such an official during or immediately following an altercation shall receive a game misconduct penalty.
There’s also a mandatory suspension which applies only when the penalty is called during the game. Of course, the league always has the option to take action afterwards, regardless of the on-ice call.
40.2 Automatic Suspension – Category I – Any player who deliberately strikes an official and causes injury or who deliberately applies physical force in any manner against an official with intent to injure, or who in any manner attempts to injure an official shall be automatically suspended for not less than twenty (20) games.
40.3 Automatic Suspension – Category II – Any player who deliberately applies physical force to an official in any manner (excluding actions as set out in Category I), which physical force is applied without intent to injure, or who spits on an official, shall be automatically suspended for not less than ten (10) games.
40.4 Automatic Suspension – Category III – Any player who, by his actions, physically demeans an official or physically threatens an official by (but not limited to) throwing a stick or any other piece of equipment or object at or in the general direction of an official, shooting the puck at or in the general direction of an official, spitting at or in the general direction of an official, or who deliberately applies physical force to an official solely for the purpose of getting free of such an official during or immediately following an altercation shall be suspended for not less than three (3) games.
Notice that all of those rules – and suspensions – require the deliberate application of physical force.
After further review, it’s not clear that MacKinnon even made contact with the veteran official. If there was contact, it appears to have been minor.
Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos reported that the league had looked into the play but would not be taking disciplinary action.
“Lots of talk this afternoon regarding this stick incident involving [the Colorado Avalanche’s Nathan] MacKinnon and NHL official [Michel Cormier],” said Kypreos. “NHL Hockey Operations have investigated it and all concluded zero intent. No further review I’m told will be necessary. “
The NHL released a statement on Tuesday, confirming the contact on linesman Michel Cormier and reaffirming their decision not to levy additional disciplinary action.
“The safety of our on-ice officials is, and has always been, of paramount importance to us. In this regard, we have always exercised a zero tolerance policy when it comes to any form of abuse of our officials. Last night, one of our officials was struck by a player with his stick immediately after a face-off.”
“We immediately investigated the incident and, having conferred with the on-ice officiating crew and the NHL Officials’ Association, it has been determined that the player’s intention was not to strike the official but, rather, to initiate contact with the opposing player. Given this conclusion, it has been determined that no further discipline is necessary. This decision should in no way be seen as a diminution of our steadfast conviction to protect our officials.”
In this case, the league felt that their officials – specifically linesman Michel Cormier – did not need protection from what they felt was an unintentional slash.
Boston won the game 5-1. Referees were Frederick L’Ecuyer (#17) and Garrett Rank (#7); linesmen were Michel Cormier (#76) and Mark Shewchyk (#92).