New York Rangers forward Dan Carcillo was successful in appealing his suspension for abuse of officials. His ten-game sentence has been reduced to six.
As we’d initially reported, the incident seemed to be in line with Rule 40.4, for applying “physical force to an official for the sole purpose of getting free of such official during or immediately following an altercation.” Carcillo’s initial 10-game suspension was based on Rule 40.3, which relates to physical force not related to a player altercation on the ice.
So what happened during the actual hearing?
Carcillo’s hearing took place on May 30. Those in attendance included Carcillo, Commissioner Gary Bettman, NHL VP Colin Campbell, Director of Officiating Stephen Walkon, Referee Dan O’Halloran, Linesman Scott Driscoll, Rangers General Manager Glen Sather, Rangers Assistant GM Jim Schoenfeld, and representatives from the NHLPA.
Reading through the actual appeals process, some highlights jumped out.
Officials’ Post-Game Report
First, the Officials’ Report from linesman Scott Driscoll:
The whistle had blown for a delayed penalty to NYR #13 Carcillo. MTL #8 Prust and NYR #15 Dorsett engaged in fisticuffs. I went to Carcillo to escort him to the penalty box for his minor penalty. While I was escorting him to the penalty box he attempted to get away from me and then applied physical force to me by hitting me with an elbow to my chin. I continued to escort him to the penalty box and upon completion of the play and with consultation with the Referees the above penalties were assessed.
New York Ranger Dan Carcillo
Carcillo also had an opportunity to present his side of the case. From the Commissioner’s Ruling:
Mr. Carcillo apologized for his actions, stating that he was aware when the whistle blew that he had been called for a penalty, but that he nevertheless did not proceed to the penalty box.
Carcillo testified that it was an emotional point in the game. He “skated around the net to try and get back into play and saw Derek and Brandon start to fight. I kind of made my way towards the fight, then backed off. I was still relatively pretty close. [Linesman] Scott [Driscoll] came in and grabbed me for the penalty and to remove me from the area.”
As they were “jostling,” Mr. Carcillo “pushed back” and they went “back and forth verbally.” He then told Mr. Driscoll to “f— off” but did not remember what else he had said, and he jostled to get away from Mr. Driscoll when his “elbow came up.”
Carcillo went on to say that the contact was not intentional and that he had no previous issues with the veteran linesman. He also apologized to Driscoll before leaving the ice.
Rangers Assistant GM Jim Schoenfeld
Rangers’ Assistant GM Jim Schoenfeld also testified, saying, “If you’re trying to get loose of a big, strong guy, there are a lot of moving parts. It’s not easy to break a grasp… I’m pulling here, I’m pushing there. And I think that’s what happened. I think that’s when the elbow came up.”
Schoenfeld also supported Driscoll’s actions on the play, stating that the linesman “did everything properly and acted exactly the way he should as an official.”
Linesman Scott Driscoll
Driscoll, a 22-year veteran, described the scene:
[NHL Linesman Scott Driscoll (#68)]
NHL Linesman Scott Driscoll (#68)
“[I] wanted to get there and escort him to the penalty box as quickly as possible because I saw a fight break out. I wanted to make sure that I could get Dan to the penalty box as quickly as possible to come back and assist my colleague [Steve Miller] in breaking up the fight. I grabbed him… as I wanted to prevent him from going towards the fight. But at the same time, I wanted to usher him towards the penalty box. I applied the force that I felt I needed to do and to try to urge him to go towards the penalty box and away from the fight.”
When Driscoll told Carcillo he needed to to to the penalty box, Carcillo responded, “F— off” and “Get your f—ing hands off me.”
After Carcillo hit Driscoll with an elbow to the jaw, Driscoll said, “Dan, you just hit me.” After that Carcillo stopped resisting, apologized, and headed to the penalty box.
Driscoll called the hit “forceful,” saying it was “a pretty good whack.”
The Commissioner’s Ruling
Commisioner Bettman interpreted Rule 40.4, regarding players involved in an altercation, to possibly include those near the altercation, not just the two combatants. As such, Carcillo’s punishment was eligible to be reduced.
He opted to exceed the three-game minimum suspension under that rule, though, stating:
“Carcillo’s actions were not accidental. His elbow did not simply ‘come up’ … He raised it while jostling with the linesman. The incident did not occur because he was falling or off-balance.”
“The incident was not a byproduct of a fight between Carcillo and another player. It would have been easy and simple for Carcillo to disengage and proceed to the penalty box, as he was required to do.”
“The degree of force was more than de minimus. An elbow to the head is generally more serious than a push or a shove.” The force of the hit is not enough to move it to the next category, but can be factored in to extended the suspension length.
Bettman also noted that the suspension would likely have been longer in the regular season, but that there is a ‘premium’ on playoff games — especially those in the Conference Final and Stanley Cup Final.
Carcillo is eligible to return for Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Los Angeles Kings.