The headline of Lisa Dillman’s LA Times article is “Ryane Clowe sticks it to the Kings, but did he break any rules?” I don’t know if Lisa Dillman is responsible for her own headlines (since that was — at least in the old days — the responsibility of the editors) but if that’s a real question, the answer is:
Yes. Rule 56: Interference
Here’s the rule book:
74.1 Too Many Men on the Ice[...]
A player coming onto the ice as a substitute player is considered on the ice once both of his skates are on the ice. If he plays the puck or interferes with an opponent while still on the players’ bench, he shall be penalized under Rule 56 – Interference.
Which reads, in part:
A minor penalty shall be imposed on any identifiable player on the players’ bench or penalty bench who, by means of his stick or his body, interferes with the movements of the puck or any opponent on the ice during the progress of the play. [...]
56.3 Bench Minor Penalty – A bench minor penalty shall be imposed when an unidentifiable player on the players’ bench or penalty bench or any Coach or non-playing Club personnel who, by means of his stick or his body, interferes with the movements of the puck or any opponent on the ice during the progress of the play.
So here’s Dillman:
“What do you think my thoughts are?” said Kings Coach Darryl Sutter. “You can’t call too many men on the ice. What do you call? Too many sticks?”
Lisa. He’s not saying, “gosh, maybe there’s a loophole in the rules which Clowe has cleverly exploited.” He’s making a joke.
A league official told Times columnist Helene Elliott that the play was a “missed call.” But what, if anything, happens next? Could there eventually be a Ryane Clowe Rule? After all, there was the Sean Avery Rule, a byproduct of the playoffs in 2008. After Avery, then of the Rangers, waved his hands and tried to distract Devils goalie Martin Brodeur during a power play. The league wasted no time and the following day issued a wider interpretation of the existing unsportsmanlike conduct rule, covering actions like Avery’s.
Yes, but Avery did actually exploit a real loophole in the rules. Namely: before the Avery rule, there was nothing in the rules to explicitly prevent a player from acting like Sean Avery. Okay, I’m sort of kidding. But in Avery’s case, he realized there was nothing in the rules stopping him from just being really f***ing annoying.
Doughty thought Clowe’s move merited more than a two-minute penalty.
“I don’t see why he shouldn’t be suspended,” he said. “I don’t know if that is a suspension or not. But I don’t know why it shouldn’t be.”
Bettman has the authority to suspend any player for any reason. There doesn’t have to be a rule for it. He can do whatever he needs to do, to (as I believe the phrase goes) “protect the integrity of the game.” Maybe it’s “of the league.” Either way.
I agree with Doughty, and here’s why
- Think of penalties as being in two groups: (1) rules that protect players’ safety, and (2) rules that insure the game’s fairness.
- Many in the first group are also part of the second. But several in the second group don’t address player safety at all. For example, delay of game, too many men, unsportsmanlike conduct, skaters covering the puck in the crease, goaltenders playing the puck outside the trapezoid, illegal equipment.
- All of those I just mentioned are considered fair game in terms of players and coaches attempting to bend the rules before they get called. How close does the player have to be to the bench before a substitution can be made? How far can a player push the equipment limits? how long can a player hold the puck in his glove before he’s called for closing his hand on the puck?
- But there’s absolutely no way the league should allow INTENTIONALLY PLAYING THE PUCK FROM THE BENCH to be considered something the players and coaches can think they have any leeway in interpreting.
- You simply can’t have players or coaches thinking, “well, it’s illegal if he touches the puck, but not if he waves his stick in the guy’s face.” Or, “it’s okay if he’s in the process of changing (coming over the boards) and the player he’s substituting for is already on the bench.” Or whatever other walking of the line they would attempt. Because it’s the job of the players and coaches to walk that line, to get any edge the rules give them.
- Bettman should absolutely send a message that playing the puck from the bench is not open to interpretation.