Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Alex Pietrangelo isn’t the only one facing supplemental discipline after Wednesday’s Game 4.
Edmonton Oilers defenseman Darnell Nurse received an automatic one-game suspension for a late instigator penalty when he dropped the gloves with Vegas defenseman Nic Hague. Oilers head coach Jay Woodcroft has also been fined $10,000.
In a chippy game that had already seen 77 penalty minutes handed out – including a major and game misconduct for Pietrangelo’s violent slash just over a minute prior – Nurse objected to Hague’s physical play along the boards. Skating in from the blue line, Nurse dropped the gloves and grabbed Hague, leading to a sprited scrap.
When the dust settled, both players were issued fighting majors, with Nurse picking up an extra minor and misconduct for instigating. Here’s the rule (46.11):
An instigator of an altercation shall be a player who by his actions or demeanor demonstrates any/some of the following criteria: distance traveled; gloves off first; first punch thrown; menacing attitude or posture; verbal instigation or threats; conduct in retaliation to a prior game (or season) incident; obvious retribution for a previous incident in the game or season.
A player who is deemed to be the instigator of an altercation shall be assessed an instigating minor penalty, a major penalty for fighting and a ten-minute misconduct.
But wait, there’s more. Given that this penalty was incurred late in the game, there’s one more condition, found in Rules 46.12 and 46.21:
A player who is deemed to be the instigator of an altercation in the final five (5) minutes of regulation time or at anytime in overtime (see 46.12), shall be suspended for one game, pending a review of the incident.
When the one-game suspension is imposed, the Coach shall be fined $10,000 – a fine that will double for each subsequent incident.
The suspension shall be served unless, upon review of the incident, the Director of Hockey Operations, at his discretion, deems the incident is not related to the score, previous incidents in the game or prior games, retaliatory in nature, “message sending”, etc. The length of suspension will double for each subsequent offense.
No team appeals will be permitted either verbally or in writing regarding the assessment of this automatic suspension as all incidents are reviewed by the Director of Hockey Operations as outlined above.
This isn’t Player Safety’s call. This one was determined by Hockey Ops, who upheld the automatic ban.
Actually, now, it apparently is, despite the rulebook’s contrarian advice.
The NHL tells me that auto suspensions were shifted from Hockey Ops to Player Safety at some point. Nurse’s suspension being upheld was a George Parros call.
Shift makes sense. Hockey Ops (i.e. Colin Campbell) is more about unsportsmanlike conduct than physical fouls.
— Greg Wyshynski (@wyshynski) May 11, 2023
It was George Parros and his team of Department of Player Safeticians who upheld the one-gamer.
“I saw Darnell wrap somebody up and two guys bear hugging each other,” said Edmonton head coach Jay Woodcroft. “I saw their player with his gloves off first, I saw their player throw eight punches and to me that’s two willing combatants. It’s not like somebody was turtling up in a ball.”
While there’s no question Hague was a willing combatant, it’s hard to say that Nurse didn’t initiate the fight. The two players were not otherwise engaged until the Oilers forward came crashing in.
By the letter of the law, it’s an instigator, which means it’s also a one-game suspension.