New York Rangers defenseman K’Andre Miller awaits a ruling from Player Safety after he was ejected from Sunday’s game against the Los Angeles Kings for spitting at defenseman Drew Doughty.
The unexpected expectoration came with 3:23 remaining in the first period of Sunday’s game in New York.
Miller gave a shove to Kings winger Kevin Fiala after an offside entering the Rangers’ zone. Los Angeles defensemen Drew Doughty and Mikey Andersen responded, confronting Miller.
The Blueshirts’ blueliner spit, hitting Doughty in the face. Both teams converged, pushing and shoving, though nothing deserving of a penalty.
“I was just shocked, obviously,” Doughty said, as reported in The Athletic. “I don’t even know if I said anything to him after, but I just immediately went to the ref to try to get the penalty. You don’t want to see things like that in this game. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen that. I’m sure it has happened, but not that I’ve seen. It’s unfortunate, and whether or not he meant to do that, I have no idea. But it’s a pretty big loogie on my face, so I was pretty pissed.”
One of the on-ice officials had to have seen it, as referees Eric Furlatt and Brandon Schrader went over to review the play. Officials can only review penalties when the original call on the ice is either a major, match, or a double-minor for high sticking. Linesmen can also report major or match penalty infractions to the refs, prompting a review.
After a quick look, referee Eric Furlatt announced that Miller was issued a match penalty for spitting.
Curiously, the NHL rulebook does not assign a match penalty to spitting. Rather, it’s noted as a game misconduct – not that it would’ve had any difference in the game; both would result in Miller’s ejection.
From Rule 23.8:
The following list of infractions can also result in a game misconduct penalty being assessed … (iii) spitting on or at an opponent.
Spitting does not appear to fall under the league’s definition for a match penalty under 21.2:
A match penalty shall be imposed on any player who deliberately attempts to injure or who deliberately injures an opponent in any manner.
Miller released a statement regarding the incident.
“I wanted to take a moment to address what occurred in last night’s game. I have all the respect in the world for Drew Doughty and what happene was completely accidental. I would never intend to do something like that on purpose, it goes against everything I am as a person and player. I felt awful about it and I am thankful Drew gave me the opportunity to apologize and explain myself in person after the game.”
New York Rangers head coach Gerard Gallant didn’t see the incident in question.
“Obviously, it happened. I’m not saying it didn’t happen,” Gallant said. “The kid feels bad about it. Said it was an accident.”
Miller will plead his case to the NHL’s Department of Player Safety. He has a hearing scheduled for Monday regarding the incident. There is no required minimum suspension for spitting at an opponent.
Forward Garnet Hathaway, then with the Washington Capitals, was suspended three games for deliberately spitting in an opponent’s face during an altercation. Tampa Bay Lightning forward Chris Gratton was also suspended for three game in 1998 for spitting at referee Paul Stewart.