All eyes were on Tom Wilson again in Game 1, for the wrong reasons, after he hit Jonathan Marchessault with a blatantly late check that led to a two-minute minor for interference. Naturally, a player with Wilson’s track record who has already been suspended in these playoffs was in the public’s cross-hairs again, with many speculating about the number of games he should be forced to sit out.
But when Wilson went to the box he was joined by David Perron, who wasn’t even on the ice at the time of the hit.
Perron was given two minutes for cross-checking when he hopped over the boards and hit Alex Ovechkin. The problem there for many was that Perron came on to the ice while Vegas already had five players out there, with no one even attempting to leave the ice. And the fact he made contact with Ovechkin had many pointing to rule 70.6 as a reason why the Golden Knight should have been kicked out of the game and suspended for another 10. Detroit’s Luke Witkowski was automatically suspended 10 games under the same rule earlier this season.
There’s also Rule 70.10, which led to a 10-gamer being handed out to David Clarkson in a pre-season game in 2013.
There is a big difference between Perron’s play and those other two, though: there was no altercation ongoing when he came on to the ice, and none was started by his presence.
First, from Rule 70.6:
Game Misconduct Penalty – A game misconduct penalty shall be imposed on the player who was the first or second player to leave the players’ or penalty bench during an altercation or for the purpose of starting an altercation, from either or both teams.
Any penalized player leaving the penalty bench during a stoppage of play and during an altercation shall incur a minor penalty plus a game misconduct penalty. The minor penalty plus the unexpired time remaining in his original penalty must be served by a replacement player placed on the penalty bench by the Coach of the offending team.
Any player who has been ordered to the dressing room by the officials and returns to his bench or to the ice surface for any reason before the appropriate time shall be assessed a game misconduct and shall be suspended automatically without pay for the next ten (10) regular League and/or Play-off games.
And from Rule 70.10:
70.10 Fines and Suspensions – The first player to leave the players’ or penalty bench illegally during an altercation or for the purpose of starting an altercation from either or both teams shall be suspended automatically without pay for the next ten (10) regular League and/or Play-off games of his team.
Former league disciplinarian Brian Burke joined Sportsnet 590 The FAN’s Starting Lineup on Tuesday morning and discussed the incident, including how it could have been elevated to a suspension-worthy transgression.
“I think David Perron is lucky he didn’t start a fight because then it’s automatic,” Burke said. “Then it becomes what we call a rule-book suspension. So some of the suspensions in the rule book are mandated — like a physical assault on a referee is a minimum of 10 and up. Leaving the bench for the purpose of starting a fight is 10 and up.
“I think David Perron probably thought it was a good idea to leave the bench then came to his senses and said, ‘Well, I’m going to hit this guy but I’m not going to fight him.’
“I think if Ovi were more that kind of player — like if that’s Brian Burke and Perron comes off the bench, I’m fighting him. I’m going to make sure he gets the 10.”
It’s important to note that the NHL defines an “altercation” as “a situation involving two players with at least one to be penalized,” but does so under Rule 46, which covers fighting. There were no fights on this play and what Perron did is not defined as an altercation in the rule book. In fact, you won’t find that word in the rule book related to anything other than fighting.
Witkowski’s 10-game suspension relates to the bottom of Rule 70.6: he had already been ordered off the ice by the referee and had left the playing surface, then returned to engage with Matthew Tkachuk.
Clarkson’s was a different case. There are clearly altercations already going on that he hopped on to the ice to get involved in.
Perron’s situation is much different than these two examples. While it does come soon after Wilson’s hit on Marchessault, there was no altercation in progress. No Golden Knight became engaged with Wilson and the play continued on. Perron hits Ovechkin just after the play is whistled dead, and because Ovechkin doesn’t engage with Perron, the Vegas player doesn’t “start an altercation.”
In fact, the linesman sends Perron back to the bench and a post-whistle scrum never starts up. No more penalties came as a result of Perron’s play and no fights started, so therefore it looks to be nothing more than a cross-check or too-many-men minor penalty.
“It’s probably nothing. Maybe a fine,” Burke said.
The closest Perron may have come to really costing his team is if he pulled that move while Ovechkin had the puck. The Capital was in pursuit of it after it was fired down the ice and being corralled by Marc-Andre Fleury, but had he been in control of it and Perron jumped on to hit him, Washington would have been given a penalty shot, per Rule 70.7:
Penalty Shot – If a player of the attacking side in possession of the puck shall be in such a position as to have no opposition between him and the opposing goalkeeper, and while in such position he shall be interfered with by a player of the opposing side who shall have illegally entered the game, the Referee shall impose a penalty shot against the side to which the offending player belongs.
So based on these two past precedents and the wording of the rules, it’s unlikely Perron will get the automatic 10-game ban because he didn’t join in on an altercation and no fights were started.