-- Columbus Blue Jackets
forward Michael Peca
's suspension without pay will last for five regular-season games for having violated Rule 41, Physical Abuse of Officials, in NHL Game 15 against the Dallas Stars
on October 10. The suspension was finalized after a hearing on appeal and a review of the incident by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman.
Following a Dallas goal at 5:21 of the second period, Peca confronted referee Greg Kimmerly and grabbed him by the arm (according to Peca, solely for the purpose of getting the referee's attention) while voicing his displeasure regarding the preceding play. Peca was assessed a 10-minute misconduct penalty for his verbal abuse of the official, and a game misconduct for the physical abuse of the official pursuant to Rule 41.1.
Application of Rule 41 calls for automatic suspension of three, 10 or 20 games, based on three categories of offenses. Peca's offense initially was assessed as a Category II, which requires an automatic 10-game suspension. Peca appealed and a hearing was held Thursday before Commissioner Bettman. Upon hearing the testimony and reviewing the evidence, including a video of the incident (which was not previously available or reviewed by the four officials who worked the game), the parties present at the hearing, including the four on-ice officials involved in the game, determined that the application of Category III, which requires a minimum three-game ban, was more appropriately applied because Peca's actions were more properly categorized as "physically demeaning" conduct. However, due to the serious nature of the conduct involved and pursuant to his authority under Rule 41, Commissioner Bettman increased the minimum three-game suspension to five games.
crossed the line by making physical contact with referee Kimmerly. His conduct -- regardless of the type or nature of precipitating events -- was inexcusable and showed a lack of respect for our on-ice officials, and for the game itself," Commissioner Bettman said. "The National Hockey League remains committed to ensuring that officials are not subjected to any physical contact or abuse by NHL players."
Mr. Peca has already served two games of the suspension. He will be eligible to return on Friday, October 24, for Columbus' game against the New York Rangers
. Based on the annual average value of his contract and under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, Peca will forfeit $35,349.46. The withheld salary is contributed to the Players' Emergency Assistance Fund.