Call It Now or Never Do

Here comes the instigator rule again.

Zdeno Chara received one with 3:21 to go in the Ottawa’s 5-1 win over Los Angeles tonight.  Chara grabbed Tim Gleason shortly after Chris Kelly ate some punches from Jeff Cowan.

Chara gets into a few fights a year, as you can see from his player page linked above, but few would consider him a goon or a tough guy.

So what now?

The rule, within 56a:

(NEW for 2005-06) A player who is deemed to be the instigator of an altercation in the final five (5) minutes of regulation time or at any time in overtime, shall be assessed an instigator minor penalty, a major for fighting, a ten minute misconduct and an automatic one-game suspension. The length of suspension will double for each subsequent offense. In addition, the player’s coach shall be fined $10,000—a fine that will double for each subsequent incident.

(NEW for 2005-06) (NOTE 1) No team appeals will be permitted either verbally or in writing regarding the assessment of this automatic suspension.

However, we found out the automatic suspension is not automatic.

So what will NHL Vice President of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell do now?

Chara is not a “two-shift guy”, nor is he a “tough guy doing his thing and leaving his calling card” - or is he?

Over the summer I wasn’t impressed by this rule, while it was still in the proposed stage.  I gave a list of all instances where this rule would have applied during the 2003-04 season.

There were 16 times the rule would have applied.  Chara is 1 of the 16 players who received an instigator within the last five minutes of regulation in 2003-04.

You can’t be a repeat offender if there was no extra rule to break in the first place, but it certainly shows that this isn’t a one-time thing with Chara.  Oh, and it’s not a two-time thing either.  During the 2001-02 season Chara picked up an instigator with 2 seconds left of a Montreal-Ottawa game.  Gino Odjick was his dance partner that night.

Quick - name another player besides Chara who has received an instigator with less than five minutes left in regulation time three times since 2001-02.

Can’t think of one?

That’s because there isn’t one.

There are three sitting at two instances who are still in the NHL: Tie Domi, Jeremy Stevenson and Brendan Shanahan.  Add a fourth if you want to include Dale Purinton, who has spent this entire season sitting out a suspension or playing in the AHL.

So what will Campbell do?  Chara’s no goon, but he’s certainly no saint - he’s shown he’s just as capable of starting a fight at the end of a game than anyone is.

We’ll soon find out if this rule is actually a rule for the league, or only a select few dubbed “goon”.

Posted by David M Singer on Dec 03, 2005 at 12:12 AM


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