In a ruling that is sure to make Coyotes fans’ blood boil and stoke this already budding rivalry, Los Angeles Kings forward Jordan Nolan will face no supplemental discipline for his hit on Phoenix Coyotes defenseman Rusty Klesla, while Coyotes forward Paul Bissonnette has been suspended 10 games without pay for leaving the bench during an altercation on “an illegal line change.”
In the explanatory video on NHL.com, NHL senior vice president for player safety, Brendan Shanahan, determined that Nolan broke no NHL rules. Shanahan says Nolan leads with his shoulder on the first-period hit that led to Klesla being carted off on a stretcher with his head and neck immobilized. Shanahan also notes the hit wasn’t late and Nolan hits “squarely through the body and does not” target the head.
Despite video evidence to the contrary, Shanahan says “nor does he launch up or into the check.”
Nolan and Coyotes center Martin Hanzal earned roughing penalties for a scuffle after the play, and soon after they left the box, Hanzal caught Nolan with an elbow, starting another altercation. Bissonnette left the bench to join the fray.
Coach Dave Tippett said Monday that Bissonnette was on a line change for Max Domi (an assessment Kings coach Darryl Sutter seemed to agree with). The Coyotes were upset with both rulings but could not comment.
The NHL obviously saw Bissonnette’s decision differently. According to Rule 70.6: “A game misconduct penalty shall be imposed on the player who was the first or second player to leave the players’ or penalty bench during an altercation or for the purpose of starting an altercation, from either or both teams.”
The suspension is mandated by Rule 70.10: “The first player to leave the players’ or penalty bench illegally during an altercation or for the purpose of starting an altercation from either or both teams shall be suspended without pay for the next 10 regular league and/or playoff games of his team.”
Bissonnette will forfeit $37,820.51, which goes to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund. He is eligible to return — you can’t make this stuff up — when the Coyotes play the Kings on Oct. 24 in Los Angeles. He can still play in preseason games. Bissonnette’s agent, Mark Guy, said Wednesday that he will appeal the suspension.
As for Klesla, he was officially diagnosed with a concussion and whiplash and is resting at home. The Coyotes have no timetable for his return. Concussions are notoriously difficult to predict, both because they impact individuals in vastly different ways and because our knowledge of them is in its infancy.