(UPDATE: Kane has been suspended three games and he will not appeal.)
There always seems to be fireworks when the Vegas Golden Knights and San Jose Sharks play. Whether it’s a playoff game or regular season contest, something seems to happen. The rivalry doesn’t even slow down in the preseason anymore. On Sunday, Sharks forward Evander Kane was ejected for abuse of an official.
Before Kane had a run-in with linesman Kiel Murchison, he and Golden Knights forward Valentin Zykov dropped the gloves. So Kane, who had already been thrown out of games at T-Mobile Arena twice heading into last night, wasn’t in a particularly good mood. Of course, we also know about the beef he and Ryan Reaves had in the playoffs last season. But now, he may be facing supplemental discipline for this latest incident.
Kane gets tangled up with Deryk Engelland. There’s some words and shoves exchanged and then Kane whacks Engelland with his stick, but appears to also make contact with Murchison. The linesman gets in between the two players, grabs Engelland Murchison grabs Kane forcefully and they end up falling over. The two get up and Kane gives the referee a shove.
The Sharks forward was eventually kicked out of the game and he clearly wasn’t happy about it.
“I get kicked out of the game for getting jumped from behind by a referee. I’ve never seen a ref take five strides,” Kane said, via NBC Sports Bay Area. “If you look at his face, he’s getting all this power and he’s trying to drive me into the ice, which is what he did. That’s unbelievable.
”Talk about abuse of an official? How about abuse of a player? It’s an absolute joke.”
Slashes happen all the time in hockey, but if you’re going to go down that road you need to make sure you’re not going to hit an innocent bystander, which is what Kane did. Clearly, the official was fed up of Kane’s antics and he was frustrated about being slashed. Should the referee be grabbing a player like that? Probably not. But there’s no excuse for whacking him either.
According to the NHL rulebook, there are three categories when it comes to abuse of an official:
Category I: “Any player who deliberately strikes an official and causes injury or who deliberately applies physical force in any manner against an official with intent to injure, or who in any manner attempts to injure an official shall be automatically suspended for not less than twenty (20) games.”
Category II: “Any player who deliberately applies physical force to an official in any manner (excluding actions as set out in Category I), which physical force is applied without intent to injure, or who spits on an official, shall be automatically suspended for not less than ten (10) games.”
Category III: “Any player who, by his actions, physically demeans an official or physically threatens an official by (but not limited to) throwing a stick or any other piece of equipment or object at or in the general direction of an official, shooting the puck at or in the general direction of an official, spitting at or in the general direction of an official, or who deliberately applies physical force to an official solely for the purpose of getting free of such an official during or immediately following an altercation shall be suspended for not less than three (3) games.”
Any time a player is tossed from a game for abuse of an official, the referees and linesmen will meet after the game to determine the category of the offense. The referees then give verbal and written reports to the league and the process begins.
It’s hard to argue that Kane intentionally tried to injure the linesman in this case and he also wasn’t applying physical force to an official to get free from him. This incident looks like it would fall in the second category. Back in 2017, Anaheim Ducks forward Antoine Vermette was suspended 10 games for slashing a referee off a face-off.
The biggest difference between Vermette’s slash and Kane’s slash, is that Vermette knew exactly what he was doing. Unfortunately for Kane, he also threw in the shove after he got taken down. It’s going to be fascinating to see how the NHL handles this situation. Will they hit Kane with a 10-game suspension for an incident that occurred during the preseason? Does the linesman dragging Kane to the ice play a factor in the final outcome of the suspension?
The NHL needs to be extremely careful with how they handle this incident. The linesman probably reacts out of frustration here, but Kane had been mixing it up throughout the game.
The league can’t let players get away with stuff like this. It will set an ugly precedent.
Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.