NEW YORK -- The National Hockey League announced today that it has reduced Phoenix forward Paul Bissonnette's suspension from 10 games to three games for his conduct in leaving his team's bench to join an altercation during NHL Preseason Game No. 9 in Phoenix on September 15, 2013.
In the game in question against the Los Angeles Kings, Bissonnette was assessed a game misconduct under Rule 70.6 for leaving the Players' Bench illegally during an altercation or for the purpose of starting an altercation -- an infraction that also calls for an automatic suspension for 10 Regular Season games.
Because this incident occurred during a preseason game, there was less video evidence than is typically available for these types of reviews, and as a result, the precise timing and circumstances pursuant to which Bissonnette entered the ice surface are not apparent in the video. What is clear in the video is that by the time an altercation ensued, there were six (6) Coyotes skaters on the ice as compared to the normal five (5) skaters for the Kings, and that Bissonnette was the “extra skater” that had entered the ice surface and joined the altercation. Bissonnette was assessed a game misconduct penalty for leaving the Players' Bench illegally under Rule 70.6.
Subsequently, Bissonnette was assessed an automatic 10-game suspension pursuant to Rule 70.10. Bissonnette appealed his automatic 10-game suspension pursuant to Section 18.17 of the CBA. During the appeal process, video evidence not available to the League at the time of the assessment of the suspension was reviewed. Although not conclusive, this new evidence lends support to Bissonnette's contention that, at the time he entered the ice surface, he did so legally, to substitute for Phoenix forward Max Domi. That contention is also supported by various of Bissonnette's teammates and by Phoenix Head Coach Dave Tippett. None of the on-ice officials definitively contradict Bissonnette's contention. Rather, because Domi never exited the ice surface and, in fact, later joined the altercation himself, the officials merely (and properly) determined that a violation of Rules 70.1 and 70.6 had occurred.
Given the totality of these circumstances, including the lack of conclusive video evidence, and Bissonnette's credible assertions regarding the intended legality of his substitution for Domi at the time, the League has decided not to apply the 10-game automatic suspension to Bissonnette under Rule 70.10.
Still, the League has concluded that Bissonnette must bear some responsibility for the situation that occurred on the ice in which six (6) Phoenix Coyotes' Players ended up participating in an altercation, principally involving and targeting Los Angeles forward Jordan Nolan. In this regard, the League is assessing Bissonnette a three-game suspension for his role in the events surrounding the on-ice altercation with Nolan under Rule 28 -- Supplementary Discipline.
It is important to emphasize the uniqueness of the facts in this case, particularly as it relates to the lack of adequate video evidence revealing the precise circumstances and sequence of events that are critical to the application of the automatic suspension.
Typically, in reviews of Rule 70 violations (as was already the case once this pre-season), there is conclusive video evidence that allows for the proper verification of the events on the ice, and the appropriate application of the Rule in question.
As a result of the League's determination to reduce Bissonnette's suspension to three games, Bissonnette and the NHLPA have agreed to withdraw their appeal. The matter is now closed.
Under the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, and based on his average annual salary, Bissonnette will forfeit $11,346.15. The money goes to the Players' Emergency Assistance Fund.