UPDATE: It appears Gary Bettman has reduced Vermette’s suspension to 5 games from the original 10 games, reports Doug Maclean of Sportsnet. There has been no official ruling from the NHL as of yet.
The referees from last night’s game have filed centerman Antoine Vermette’s slash of a linesman under Category II under the NHL’s rules for punishment for contact with an official.
Rule 40 of the NHL rulebook covering physical abuse of officials describes three different categories for the offending player, with the one being applied to Vermette being Category II which states that, “any player or goalkeeper who deliberately applies physical force to an official in any manner (excluding actions as set out in Category I), which physical force is applied without intent to injure, shall be automatically suspended for not less than ten (10) games.”
If you’re wondering, Category I is what the Dennis Wideman incident last season was classified as and Category III is specifically in the context of a fight.
For those who were watching the Ducks broadcast last night, the initial replays that were shown made Vermette’s offense look like a mere stick tap to the back of the leg. Hence the broadcasters and many fans claims of the game misconduct being “overblown”.
However, another overhead angle that was not shown in the initial broadcast painted a more accurate picture which shows just how bad the slash was.
Obviously Vermette was frustrated at the amount of calls going the Wild’s way. He also was pretty clearly upset that the official dropped the puck before he was ready. But that absolutely does not excuse making contact with the official in any shape or form.
The NHL and the referee union clearly want to ensure that the whole Wideman fiasco last year is not repeated by taking a hard-line stance on any perceived abuse of an official. You can’t blame them for that.
It’s important to note that cases involving abuse of officials is handled by the Department of Hockey Operations and not the Department of Player Safety.
Vermette has the option to appeal the ruling. If he does, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman will hear the appeal and would either confirm the category or adjust it to either Category I or III. Regardless, Vermette is facing automatic suspension no matter what.