In the late stages of Game Four last week in Nashville, Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith sat in the penalty box and had some back-and-forth with a Predators fan, retaliating at the end by spraying the fan with water before heading back out on the ice. The video has made the round in recent days, drawing a few chuckles from around the blogs. But as Greg Brady observes, why didn't the NHL suspend Keith for this incident?
The league suspended a HEAD COACH last season for engaging a fan with a water bottle, when all-around class dude John Tortorella lost his remaining marble on an obnoxious Capitals fan in Game 5 of the series...
For all the ridiculous stuff players get fined/suspended for in the NHL -- the bottom line is this is STILL a player assaulting a fan of one of the league's team.
Follow after the jump for a look at the video, and a comparison against the NHL's ruling last season relative to Tortorella....
First, the video of the incident from Thursday's Game Four:
"While it is a difficult decision to suspend a coach at this point in a Playoff Series, it has been made clear to all of our Players, Coaches and other bench personnel that the National Hockey League cannot-and will not - tolerate any physical contact with fans," said NHL Senior Executive Vice President and Director of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell. "We do not take this action lightly. It is the result of an entire day of investigation and evaluation that included the retrieval and review of videotape of the incident and discussions with Mr. Tortorella, other Rangers' bench personnel and a number of other people, including the security personnel at the Verizon Center.
"That investigation revealed that Mr. Tortorella squirted a fan with water before Mr. Tortorella was doused with a beverage.
"While, in these circumstances, it always is easy to allege mitigating circumstances, the fact is we do not tolerate contact with our fans in this manner. That is communicated before each season in a memo that is issued by the League to all of the management, coaches and players of every team. "The Sept. 8, 2008, memo entitled, ‘SUPPLEMENTARY DISCIPLINE REMINDERS FOR THE 2008-09 SEASON,' included the following section regarding Contact With Fans:
Even where a fan is verbally abusive, intoxicated, or profane, Club personnel should either ignore the conduct or, where appropriate, seek the assistance of police or security personnel at the arena.
This prohibition extends to all forms of physical contact, whether it be direct physical contact, the throwing of objects (including hockey sticks and other equipment), or even the squirting of water. While the latter form of conduct may have, in the past, seemed to be of a minor or harmless character, such conduct may serve only to incite and provoke an unruly fan and may ultimately lead to unforeseen consequences.
Accordingly, please be on notice that all Club personnel (management, coaches, trainers, and/or players) who engage in any form of physical contact with fans, including the squirting of water, will, on a going forward basis, be subject to discipline in the form of a suspension. The Club involved will also be subject to a fine.----------------
The suspension was issued pursuant to the Commissioner's authority under Section 6.3(j)(1)(a) of the NHL Constitution. Tortorella will miss the Rangers' next game - tomorrow afternoon vs. Washington.
Where, then, is Duncan Keith's suspension, Colin Campbell? This rule couldn't be any clearer. Duncan Keith should have been suspended for Game 5 of the Predators/Blackhawks series, but failing that, will he be suspended for Game 1 of Blackhawks/Canucks???
And just in case you think this a lot to make out of a little water-spraying, recall the Tie Domi incident from years ago in Philadelphia; while incredibly hilarious, it's not something the league wants to see repeated: