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Bettman Scolds Morgan Rielly And Upholds 5-Game Suspension

The Toronto Maple Leafs are lucky that Morgan Rielly’s suspension wasn’t given extra games. Bettman sent a message upholding the ruling.

In a decisive move, National Hockey League (NHL) Commissioner Gary Bettman reaffirmed the five-game suspension imposed on Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly for a cross-checking incident involving Ottawa Senators forward Ridly Greig during NHL Game No. 812 in Ottawa on Saturday, Feb. 10. At the same time, it appears Bettman made an example of Rielly’s attempt to get the suspension lessened, subtly scolding the player in the process.

The Commissioner heard Rielly’s appeal of the original decision, which was assessed on Feb. 13, at a hearing on Feb. 16. Bettman, in a detailed statement, emphasized that Rielly’s conduct was a serious infraction and a violation of league playing rules.

According to Bettman, a thorough review of the video evidence led him to conclude that Rielly’s actions were not “merely careless or reckless but intentional.” After Greig scored and the play was dead, Rielly skated from in front of the goal to engage Greig near the sideboards. What followed was a high-force cross-check to Greig’s head, resulting in significant and dangerous contact.

Bettman pointed out that Rielly had ample time to consider alternative, less dangerous ways to engage Greig. Instead, he pursued Greig for some time and intentionally delivered a forceful cross-check to the head. While Rielly contended that the cross-check was not aimed at Greig’s head, Bettman argued that the video evidence contradicted this assertion, as Rielly raised his stick to the level of Greig’s head and neck, driving it forcefully into him.

Bettman Wasn’t Buying any of Rielly’s Reasoning

The Commissioner dismissed the argument that Rielly attempted to mitigate the force of the cross-check by removing one hand from his stick, emphasizing that Rielly leaned into the check with his body, adding force to the blow. Bettman also rejected discussions about whether Greig’s slapshot was provocative, deeming it irrelevant to Rielly’s actions.

Morgan Rielly suspension Maple Leafs

Acknowledging that Rielly lacked a history of supplementary discipline and Greig did not suffer an injury, Bettman stated that these factors were already considered when determining the initial five-game suspension. He noted that Rielly’s suspension would likely have been longer without a clean record or if an injury had occurred, given the forceful and premeditated nature of the incident.

He noted:

Mr. Rielly believed may have been intended to embarrass Toronto although much of the testimony offered by Messrs, Rielly, Treliving, and Shanahan at the hearing concerned whether Mr. Greig’s slapshot was provocative, that discussion is utterly irrelevant.” He added, “…given the nature of the conduct Mr. Rielly’s suspension almost certainly would have been considerably longer if he did not have a clean record.”

Bettman’s Handslap to Rielly and the Maple Leafs Is a Message

While recognizing the suspension as within the range of appropriate discipline, Bettman commended Rielly for forthrightly disavowing public suggestions that his actions were appropriate. He expressed hope that the incident leading to the suspension was an aberration and would not be repeated. Still, this should be a lesson to players and teams looking to appeal the commissioner on suspensions. There is a risk that he will make them longer.

The incident occurred at 19:54 of the third period, resulting in Rielly receiving a major penalty and a game misconduct for cross-checking. In concluding his ruling, Commissioner Bettman emphasized that the slapshot into the empty net did not warrant Rielly’s response. The Leafs should consider themselves lucky that Bettman wasn’t looking to send a clearer message.

Next: Odd Correlation Between Maple Leafs Penalties and Suspensions

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