Columbus Blue Jackets forward Adam Fantilli received an unsportmanlike conduct penalty… for his honesty, after he told the ref he wasn’t hit by a high stick.
Dallas Stars defenseman Thomas Harley swung at a bouncing puck in the defensive zone, his follow-through appearing to catch Fantilli up high. The Blue Jackets’ rookie’s head snapped back, his glove coming up to his face.
After the whistle sounded for the apparent high-sticking penalty, Fantilli went over to the officials to explain what happened.
“I said that [Harley’s stick] didn’t hit me in the face,” Fantilli said after the game. “I played with a cage for a year [in college]. The stick came up and came right past my face, and you could feel the wind. It shocks you for a second. Some people don’t know how fast it really happens.”
“It went right past my face and I reacted quickly. [The referee] called it and I tried to be honest. I didn’t want to be that type of guy who looks like I was trying to sell calls or anything like that.”
“The ref just hated it, I guess, and wanted to throw me in the box. So, nothing you can do.”
Refs Jon McIsaac and Furman South handed out matching minors on the play: two for high-sticking to Harley, and two for unsportsmanlike conduct to Fantilli. The penalty for diving/embellishment does fall under unsportsmanlike conduct, but the league’s official box score does not indicate embellishment.
Effectively, it all worked out, even if Fantilli has to serve some undeserved time in the box. The teams remained at even strength, much as they would have had there been no high stick in the first place.
This play was ineligible for review. The only penalties that can be reviewed by the on-ice officials are majors, match penalties, and double-minors for high-sticking.
Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar found himself in a similar spot – though without taking a penalty – when he effectively declined a penalty call against New York Islanders center Mat Barzal last season.
The Blue Jackets lost the game 5-2 to the Dallas Stars. Officials were referees Jon McIsaac (#2) and Furman South (#13) with James Tobias (#61) and Brandon Grillo (#75) on lines.