Linesman Dan Kelly went from breaking up an altercation to nearly initiating one.
Kelly was escorting Toronto Maple Leafs forward Michael Bunting off the ice after the Leafs and Tampa Bay Lightning came together at the end of the first period.
Tampa’s Pierre-Edouard Bellemare delivered a late hit on Toronto’s Mitch Marner right before the horn sounded. The home team took exception and both clubs came together for some shoving and stickwork. Bunting exchanged blows with Bolts blueliner Mikhail Sergachev.
That’s when linesman Dan Kelly stepped in.
The official escorted Bunting off the ice, offering a few shoves along the way, and nearly knocking the Leafs winger over when his skates hit the boards.
“What the **** are you doing?!” yelled Bunting as he headed off. “That was crazy!”
Bellemare and Bunting were both given minor penalties on the play.
Don’t expect anything more from the league. While Bunting may have protested and delayed in exiting the ice, he never resisted the official nor initiated contact. He was smart to hold back.
“Emotions were high,” Bunting said of the incident. “It’s hockey, and [we] move on from it. It’s not really that big of a deal.”
As far as the official goes, Kelly may be called on the carpet for a post-game chat with Stephen Walkom, the NHL’s Director of Officiating, though that will likely be kept under wraps. The NHL has issued fines and suspensions to officials in the past, typically without public acknowledgment. It’s been nearly 30 years, though, since an NHL official has been fined publicly.
Kelly, 33, a native of Morrisonville, New York, is working his 111th NHL game. He’s in his third season under an AHL/NHL contract, splitting time between the two leagues.
Before donning the stripes, Kelly spent seven seasons in the American Hockey League, suiting up for the Albany Devils and San Jose Barracuda, racking up 651 penalty minutes in 405 games. Kelly, in 2016 with the Albany Devils, served a 10-game suspension for an illegal check to the head of Toronto Marlies forward Andreas Johansen.
Referees for Leafs vs. Lightning were Furman South (#13) and Jan Hebert (#15); linesmen were Dan Kelly (#98) and Steve Barton (#59).