As I predicted, the NHL didn’t have the onions to discipline Tampa Bay’s Steve Downie for leaving the bench to join—and escalate—an altercation with the Rangers.
To me, it’s clear as day that Downie sat on the boards during the whole Artem Anisimov-Vinny Lecavalier incident Thursday, then motioned for Dominic Moore to come to the bench so that he could leave the bench and join the fracas. And when he did, he absolutely escalated the melee, which was just calming down.
Yet the NHL jumped through hoops as it always does, and simply fined Downie (max $2,500). I’m not sure Downie deserved the 10-game automatic suspension since A) there were no fighting penalties assessed—blame the officials for that—and B) he didn’t really start a fight himself.
But the fact that the NHL and the officials allow a player to leave the bench to join an altercation is a dangerous precedent that will/could lead to more incidents, and maybe even a bench-clearing brawl.
Here’s the rule:
Rule 70 – Leaving the Bench
70.1 Leaving the Bench – No player or goalkeeper may leave the players’ or penalty bench at any time during an altercation or for the purpose of starting an altercation. Substitutions made prior to the altercation shall be permitted provided the players so substituting do not enter the altercation.
Some suggested beforehand that Brendan Shanahan would go soft because his former teammate and buddy Steve Yzerman is the Tampa Bay GM. I doubt (hope) that wasn’t so. But the NHL always seems to find reasons to not enforce its rules in these cases.
Very weak, in my opinion.