Looking Back: Player-Coaches in the NHL

In today’s NHL the idea of a player-coach is completely far-fetched. Both sides of the bench have become highly specialized and have demanding such responsibilities that you rarely find the player who can “do it all” on the ice and likewise for coaches in the locker room. In fact, we’re at a point where each team might have a head coach, two or more assistant coaches, a goaltending coach, and a support staff (such as video coaches and scouts). Likewise, players are expected to not only train physically, but also practice, and learn systems for all sorts of situations. Between the enormous increase in coaching responsibilities as well as the commitment fo rplay on the ice in today’s highly structured game, it’s unlikely we’ll ever see a player-coach in the NHL again.

So let us take time to reminisce about some of the more noteworthy NHL player-coaches in history.

newsy_lalondeNewsy Lalonde, 1917-22

Despite playing much of his early career before the NHL was formed in 1917, Newsy Lalonde was one of the league’s first star players. He scored 125 goals in only 99 career games and would have been both the Art Ross Trophy and Rocket Richard Trophy winner in 1918-19 if those awards had existed. Lalonde was an early captain of the Montreal Canadiens and was on their first Stanley Cup winning team in 1916 (in the National Hockey Association). He coached the Habs for 88 games from 1917-22, which included an NHL Championship win in 1918 (but not a Stanley Cup as the Cup was not necessarily tied to the league until 1926). After this he played for the Western Canadian Hockey League before returning to the NHL to coach for the New York Americans in 1926-27. In November 1926 he substituted into the game for an injured player, marking his final game as a professional hockey player in any league. He would return to coaching in 1929 with the Ottawa Senators before returning to coach the Canadiens from 1932 to 1935. Lalonde finished with a 144-167-28 record as an NHL coach. He was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame as a player in 1950.

lpatrickLester Patrick, 1928

Known as one of the league’s most influential coaches of all time (he introduced the blue line, forward pass, and the playoff system to the NHL to list just a few of his laurels), Lester Patrick only played a single game in the NHL and he did so as a player-coach. The 44-year old, who was in his first year as New York Rangers head coach, substituted himself into a Stanley Cup Final game after starting netminder Lorne Chabot suffered an eye injury from a high shot. Back then, teams did not have backup goaltenders. The opposing coach, Eddie Gerard of the Montreal Maroons, refused to allow either of the two professional goalies in the crowd (Alec Connell, star goalie for the Ottawa Senators, and minor-leaguer Hugh McCormick) substitute for the Rangers, leading Patrick to get in front of the net himself. Odie Cleghorn, who was coach of the Pittsburgh Pirates at the time, was in the stands and allowed to substitute for Patrick on the bench. Cleghorn told the Rangers to play a hard checking game the rest of the night, which kept the Maroons from getting shots close on net. Patrick made 18 saves on 19 shots, leading to the Rangers’ victory. The Rangers were able to get a league-approved replacement goalie for the remaining three games of the series, which they won to bring home the club’s first Stanley Cup championship. Patrick went on to win six Stanley Cups as a player, coach, and manager. He was elected into the Hall of Fame in 1947.

one_denneny01Cy Denneny, 1928-29

Player-coaches in the early NHL were somewhat common because coaching was not as complex as it is today and because teams had tighter budgets than they do now. Perhaps the most prolific player-coach of the early days was Hall of Famer Cy Denneny. Denneny was signed by the Boston Bruins in 1928 as a player, coach, and assistant manager. He led the team to their first Stanley Cup championship, his fifth and final one of his career, in 1929. Denneny was one of the most prolific goal scorers of the early NHL and at the time of his retirement in 1929 he held the career records in goals and points in the NHL. Denneny would round out his NHL career with two years as a referee from 1929-31 and a year as the coach and manager of the Ottawa Senators in 1932-33. After a last place finish with the Senators, Denneny moved on from hockey.

8101413_1069236459Frank Boucher, 1943-44

Frank Boucher became a player-coach for the New York Rangers in 1943-44 under very odd circumstances. At the time, Boucher had already been retired for six years. He is one of the Rangers’ greatest players of all-time as he had won two Stanley Cups as a player (1928, 1933) and another as a coach for the team (1940). However by 1943 the Rangers were the worst team of the league. The Rangers were actually so bad that Boucher came out of retirement to become a player-coach. At the age of 42, Boucher played 15 games and scored 14 points. The Rangers still finished with a 6-39-5 record, one of the worst in history by a non-expansion team. This was mostly due to their 6.20 GAA, which is the worst the league has ever seen. Boucher would continue coaching the basement dwelling Rangers through 1949, when he was let go after a 6-11-6 start on that season. He would return again in 1953-54, but after a 14-20-6 record his coaching days would come end. He was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1958.

Other early player coaches include: Eddie Gerard (1917-18, Ottawa Senators), Ken Randall (1923-24, Hamilton Tigers), Odie Cleghorn (1925-1928, Pittsburgh Pirates), Duke Keats (1926-27, Detroit Cougars), Art Duncan (1926-27, Detroit Cougars), Dunc Munro (1929-31, Montreal Maroons), Lionel Conacher (1929-30, New York Americans), Sylvio Mantha (1935-36, Montreal Canadiens), and Dit Clapper (1945-47, Boston Bruins).

sidabelSid Abel, 1952-54

Hall of Famer Sid Abel is best known for his time in Detroit, both as a player (for 12 years) and as a coach (for another 12 years), but sandwiched between those spans was a two year stint as player-coach for the Chicago Black Hawks. Abel was part of the famed “Production Line” in Detroit with Ted Lindsay and Gordie Howe. In 1950 the three of them would take the 1-2-3 spots as the league’s leading scorers, the only time three teammates have done such in NHL history. After winning his third Stanley Cup in 1952, Detroit traded Abel to Chicago for cash. Abel coached the full 1952-53 and 1953-54 seasons for the Black Hawks while also skating in 42 out of 140 possible games. Abel was released by Chicago after only amassing 9 points and a 39-79-22 record. He would be picked up by the Red Wings in 1958 and spend the next 811 games on the bench for Detroit before finishing his coaching career with 13 games split between the St. Louis Blues and Kansas City Scouts.

34494_942x1587Doug Harvey, 1961-62

With seven Norris Trophies, Doug Harvey is one of the most accomplished defensemen in the league’s history. He was a pivotal part of the 1950’s Canadiens team that appeared in ten consecutive Stanley Cup Finals (1951-1960), winning one in 1953 and five consecutive Cups from 1956-60. It was after missing the SCF in 1961 that Harvey was traded to the Rangers for tough guy Lou Fontinato. In Harvey’s first season with the Rangers, he served as player-coach, skating in 69 games and coaching for 70 of them. He led the team to a 26-32-12 record while winning his final Norris and finishing second in Hart voting behind Jacques Plante. Harvey did not like the pressure created by the position and so he stepped down as coach before the 1962-63 season. This was the last time the NHL saw a player-coach fill both responsibilities for a full season. He would play another 154 games in the NHL, but he never coached again. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1973.

615px-1958_topps_charlie_burnsCharlie Burns, 1969-70

Charlie Burns was the most recent player-coach the NHL has seen. On December 28th, 1969, he was named the head coach after Wren Blair was fired for leading the Minnesota North Stars to a 48-65-34 record in their first 2.5 years in team history. Burns coached the team for 44 games while also skating in 50 that year. Because I don’t have game logs to know when he skated, the best I can do is determine that he must have been a player-coach for a minimum of 18 games that season. Burns, a defensive-minded center, was known for his PK and checking abilities, would end up with 16 points as a player and a 10-22-12 record as a coach that year.

The 1969-70 season was not Burns’s first time as a player-coach. He served that role twice with the San Francisco Seals of the Western Hockey League (which is actually completely unrelated to the WHL we know today) in 1965-66 and again in 1966-67. His time as player-coach for the North Stars would neither end his playing or coaching career. He played with the North Stars through 1972-73. After spending a year in the AHL, Burns returned to the North Stars as a coach for a single year.

b2xbfh9iiaebme4Honorable Mention: Arturs Irbe, 2014

While serving as the goalie coach for the Buffalo Sabres, Irbe was signed to a tryout contract on November 18th, 2014, to serve as an emergency backup goalie for the Sabres after Jhonas Enroth was injured in the first period while playing the San Jose Sharks. Irbe, who hadn’t played in an NHL game since April 4, 2004, suited up but did not play that night. Irbe had had a 13-year career that spanned 568 games. While his career 0.899 Sv% is terrible by today’s standards, he had a balance of seasons where his Sv% was above and below the league average. He was at times a rel workhorse, having lead the league with 70+ games started on three separate occasions. Had he taken to the ice in 2014, he would have become the first player-coach in 44 years and possibly the record holder for longest gap between seasons played (although that last part is speculation on my part).

Other Honorable Mentions: Todd McLellan and Joel Quennevile

mclellan-oilers1McLellan only played 5 career NHL games and found himself overseas in the top Dutch hockey league by the age of 25. It was there with the team SIJ Utrecht that he served as a player-coach in 1992-93, sparking his interest for behind the bench. The next year he was a head coach for the North Battleford North Stars of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League. Over the next two decades McLellan worked his way up through the WHL and the AHL to become an assistant coach in Detroit, where he won the Stanley Cup in 2008. That next year marked the start of his first NHL head coaching assignment with the San Jose Sharks. McLellan is now the head coach of the Edmonton Oilers.

joelquennevilletoiletpaperQuenneville served as an assistant coach to Marc Crawford in 1991 while he was still a player for the St. John’s Maple Leafs in the AHL. Quenneville had enjoyed an 803-game NHL career, but St. John’s general manager Cliff Fletcher was looking to transition him into a coaching role. Quenneville quickly worked his way up the ladder, joining the Quebec Nordiques in 1994-95 as an assistant coach and becoming a head coach of the St. Louis Blues in 1996-97. Now in his twentieth year as an NHL head coach, he has won more Stanley Cups (2010, 2013, and 2015 with Chicago) than he has had his teams miss the playoffs (just once: the 2006-07 Colorado Avalanche).

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Penalty Effects: Brad Marchand and How He Effects the Bruins’ Special Teams Stats

Brad Marchand, despite being one of the league’s biggest pests, is a highly skilled two-way winger who can play in all situations. He is both one of the best power play weapons for the Bruins and a key part of their penalty kill. So it is interesting to consider his prowess for getting calls and putting his team on the man advantage as well as for being called and sitting in the box while the Bruins play shorthanded. I plan to estimate the net  “penalty effects” on the Bruins from Marchand’s penalty taking and drawing abilities.

Marchand and Penalties

Marchand has often been both the among the leading penalty takers and penalty drawers for the Bruins. His penalties taken (PF) numbers have been top three on the team in 2010-11 (3rd), 2013-14 (1st), 2014-15 (1st), and 2015-16 (t-1st). In the penalties drawn (PA) category, he has had top three finishes on the team in 2010-11 (1st), 2011-12 (1st), 2013-14 (2nd), 2014-15 (1st), and 2015-16 (1st). This has led to a large spread in how Marchand effects the amount of time that the Bruins special teams receive over the season: Continue reading “Penalty Effects: Brad Marchand and How He Effects the Bruins’ Special Teams Stats”

Pitfalls to Avoid When Evaluating Players with Turnover Stats

Takeaways and giveaways are two turnover stats officially recorded by the NHL at every game. However much like other “real-time stats” like hits and blocked shots, there are issues to discuss before we can consider lending any credibility to the numbers.

Defining Takeaways and Giveaways

Perhaps the most concerning thing about takeaways and giveaways is that there is no definition for them from the NHL. The stats page does nothing to describe what either of these stats actually are. Worse yet there is no glossary or list of definitions on the entire NHL.com site that describes exactly what a takeaway or giveaway is. I asked Eric Hornick, the statistician for Islanders home broadcasts since 1982, if league had ever defined what giveaways and takeaways are:

After extensively using my google-fu, I was able to turn up a lone 2013 article from Dave Mishkin, radio broadcaster for the Lightning, that offered a definition. However, this text does not appear elsewhere on NHL.com and seems to originate from a Columbus Dispatch article in 2011. Nonetheless, Mishkin states:

Giveaways/Takeaways: Here are the league definitions: A giveaway occurs when a player’s own actions and decision making results in the loss of team possession of the puck.

A takeaway occurs when a defensive player causes a turnover and takes possession of the puck or when a defensive player makes a definitive effort to intercept a pass attempt and takes possession of the puck.

I would argue that this definition does not help us at all. It’s probably what most of us intuited before reading it. And that leads us to core problem of these two stats: They are highly subjective. While there are certainly going to be giveaways that are clearly giveaways (such as passing the puck right onto an opponent’s stick) and takeaways that are obviously takeaways (like lifting someone’s stick to take the puck), there are some times where it is less clear if a turnover was a bad offensive play or a good defensive play.

While I may sound like I am splitting hairs here, the subjective nature of these stats have led to unreliable record keeping. There have been many articles over the years describing “home rink bias” for turnovers, hits, blocked shots, and even more well-defined stats like shots on goal and assists. Any use of home stats for any player is going to introduce home rink bias into the statistics and make them rather suspicious. Below is a chart of home vs. away turnover stats for Colorado during the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons. The stats are for all situations and only for players with 80+ total games.

col_base stats

While the giveaway stats look fairly reasonable, it is exceedingly clear that Colorado’s home rink statistician is tracking takeaways in a way that deviates from the rest of the league’s statisticians. For this reason, I would advise the use of away stats only or the use of adjustment coefficients for home data.

(Note: While it is possible that the Avalanche’s statistician is recording takeaways in a way that is biased for the home team, we cannot say that for sure from this data alone. If his record of takeaways by Colorado’s opponents is similar, then the issue is instead a deviation of how this statistician defines takeaways relative to the rest of the league. That investigation would be another post for another day.)

Situational Bias

The turnover stats reported by the NHL are for all situations – even strength, power play, and shorthanded. In addition, these stats are reported as base counts, completely ignoring the influence of varying time on ice across players. I was actually inspired to look into this topic yesterday while reading the NHL Arbitrators blog yesterday on finding comparable players to Kucherov for estimating his next contract value. It was a great read and I really like the blog concept and approach. However, the author made use of turnover base counts from the NHL when making one of his comparisons:

For instance, over the last two [full seasons], O’Reilly had a takeaway-giveaway ratio of 181-59 while Stepan’s was 96-69.

In the course of my research, I found that this difference largely disappeared when using away stats and switching to rate-based statistics:

Player Home GV / 60 Home TK / 60 Away GV / 60 Away TK / 60
Ryan O’Reilly 1.22 4.70 1.00 2.07
Derek Stepan 1.99 2.17 1.06 2.08

The two players are almost exactly identical when removing the home rink bias from each sample. The switch to rate-based statistics adjusts for the fact that O’Reilly had a higher average time on ice per game as well as the fact that Stepan was injured at the start of the 2014-15 season, causing him to play less games than O’Reilly. Below is a further breakdown of the away stats by situation for the two players:

Player 5v5 GV / 60 5v5 TK / 60 PK GV / 60 PK TK / 60 PP GV / 60 PP TK / 60
Derek Stepan 1.12 2.25 0.00 2.75 0.94 0.31
Ryan O’Reilly 1.03 2.19 0.55 3.84 1.51 1.21

Do note that the PK and PP samples are rather small (100 -200 mins) so they may not necessarily be close to what they would be over a longer stretch of time.

Ultimately, I think it was still fair for NHL Arbitrators to say that O’Reilly had more favorable turnover stats than Stepan, but I would argue that they were much closer than the base counts implied.

An Incomplete Picture

Giveaways and takeaways make implicit descriptions about possession during a game. A giveaway signals that the player had the puck before the event occurred while a takeaway signals that the player did not. From there we can ask if a team’s ability to possess the puck is having an impact on the player’s stats.

Returning to the O’Reilly vs. Stepan comparison from before we can see that there might be something to this. Despite being one of Colorado’s best possession players, O’Reilly’s away 5v5 score-adjusted Corsi for was 45.42% over the last two full seasons. Stepan on the other hand had a 50.52% Corsi for in the same situations. This 5.10 percentage point difference suggests that the Rangers had possession of the puck more often than the Avalanche did. This makes it more likely that Stepan was in situations where he could commit a giveaway than O’Reilly, while O’Reilly would have had more opportunities to commit a takeaway than Stepan.

Now, it should be noted that Corsi is a proxy for possession because all it actually measures are certain types of shot attempts. It does not quantify time of possession, zone entries and exits, pass attempts, etc. And this also does not quantify O’Reilly’s or Stepan’s actually roles and successes on the ice. It tells nothing of how much each skates with the puck on their stick, how their positioning is, etc. All of that could be another topic for another day (depending on how much data is out there for these sorts of things).

This bridges over into a criticism that Mishkin had back in his 2013 article:

You would figure a player with a high giveaway total is prone to making bad decisions while one with a lofty takeaway total is adept at reading plays. But the player’s “giveaway” total only highlights potential bad decisions. There’s no corresponding number for how many good decisions he makes with the puck. (At least in football, the quarterback offsets his interceptions with other figures, such as completion percentage, yardage and touchdowns).

Mishkin is right that we need to know a lot more to make use of these turnover statistics when comparing players. It just further enforces the need for more data to properly make use of these statistics. Perhaps the biggest indication that we need to re-evaluate the use of these statistics is the fact that 2015 Norris trophy winner Erik Karlsson led the league in giveaways in the last two full seasons combined. Behind him were PK Subban and Joe Thornton. While these three players “did the most bad things with the puck” over those two seasons, I highly suspect that some record of the “good things they did with the puck” would vindicate them. Unfortunately, no such data is tracked by the NHL.

In Conclusion

To wrap it up, it’s important to do the following when using turnover stats in player evaluation:

  1. Either stick to away stats or find/calculate an adjustment coefficient for home statistics.
  2. Use rate-based statistics, preferably ones based on time-on-ice.
  3. Consider the situational usage of the players you’re using.Either use 5v5 stats or make a note of how PP and PK stats influence the players’ composite stats.
  4. Think about how a player’s stats can be influenced by their style of play as well as that of the team around them.
  5. Add a disclaimer about the shortfalls of turnover stats and use other metrics in your comparisons.
  6. Reconsider if using turnover stats is a good idea.

 

The Cap Advantage Recapture Penalty: How it Shapes the Future

This post is the third part of a three part series. In case you missed them, here are the two articles that help introduce this final discussion:

The Cap Advantage Recapture Penalty: What It Is and Why It Matters

The Cap Advantage Recapture Penalty: Real Life Examples


There’s something funny about Roberto Luongo. I’m not talking about his twitter or him reading poetry about Byfuglien, I’m talking about the potential cap advantage recapture penalty (CARP) attached to his contract:

Yes, if Roberto Luongo retires as a Panther in 2021 (at the ripe old age of 42), then the Panthers are not hit with any CARP while the Canucks will have a one-year penalty of $8.5m. Now the explanation will be quite complex, but it’s manageable:

The Original Contract and the Trade

Below is a table of the original Luongo contract from the Canucks signed in 2010 along with calculations of AAV, annual cap advantage, and net cap advantage:

Continue reading “The Cap Advantage Recapture Penalty: How it Shapes the Future”

The Cap Advantage Recapture Penalty: Real Life Examples

Yesterday I went over how the cap advantage recapture penalty (CARP) works. Today I will move away from the legalese of the CBA and focus on the CARP in action and potential.

To my knowledge, there are only two teams that currently have a CARP on their books. They are the New Jersey Devils and Los Angeles Kings. The Devils have had a $250,000 penalty since 2013-14 and will have it to the end of the 2024-25 season as a result of Ilya Kovalchuk’s “retirement.” The Kings are losing $1.32m in space starting this season and running through 2019-20 due to the early termination of Mike Richards’s contract. Many teams were able to rid themselves of potential CARP-inducing contracts through the use of compliance buyouts. Compliance buyouts were two penalty-free buyouts given to each team after the 2013 CBA was signed. A tracker of these buyouts can be found here.

Let’s look at the Kovalchuk contract in more detail. Below is a table summarizing the terms of his massive deal as well as the calculation of the cap advantage associated with his deal:

Continue reading “The Cap Advantage Recapture Penalty: Real Life Examples”

The Cap Advantage Recapture Penalty: What It Is and Why It Matters

by @Chris_Beardy

Over the next few days I will be writing some articles that cover the cap advantage recapture penalty. It is something that I think is under-considered by the media and fans alike while discussing teams’ cap situations and the potential for player movement.

This introductory article will explain what the penalty is and how it is applied. Follow-up articles will give real examples of the penalty in action as well as my beliefs on how this penalty affects the league moving forward.

What is the Cap Advantage Recapture Penalty?

In addition to placing some regulations on how salary structure can be done, the 2013 collective bargaining agreement (CBA – available here) introduced a penalty to punish teams that made cap-circumventing contracts under the previous CBA signed in 2006. This penalty is called the Cap Advantage Recapture Penalty (CARP) and it basically makes sure that a team is affected by the full value of a contract should a player happen to retire early.

The reason why the CARP is a necessity is because there is a discrepancy between how players are paid and how their “cap hit” affects the team’s payroll. Starting in 2006, the CBA established a hard cap ceiling and floor for every team in the league, meaning that each teams’ player payroll had a maximum and minimum limit. Instead of using the year-to-year salaries for players, instead the averaged annual value (AAV) of each contract is used. As a result, there are seasons where the team pays players more than they are “charged” by the league. These situations are referred to as “cap advantaged” seasons. A hypothetical contract can be seen below:

Continue reading “The Cap Advantage Recapture Penalty: What It Is and Why It Matters”

A Brief History of “Abuse of an Official” Suspensions in the NHL

Feb 8, 2016 by @Chris_Beardy

Dennis Wideman’s 20 game suspension for abuse of an official has been of the most widely discussed topics for the NHL in the past week. It is a complex situation as news has come to light that Dennis Wideman was concussed shortly before he delivered a cross check to the back of linesman Don Henderson.

I would like to take a look back through the league’s history regarding the rules and other incidents relating to “abuse of an official.” I intend to describe at least a single incident in every decade of the NHL’s history and I will add in videos whenever possible. My hope is that the recounting of the league’s past will help open up discussion on Wideman’s case even further. I believe there are some interesting parallels between the Wideman incident and some of the other incidents below.

January 14, 1919

The earliest case of disciplinary action for “abuse of an official” I could find was a report that Toronto Maple Leaf defenseman Ken Randall was fined $10 by the NHL. He reportedly called referee Steve Vair a “son of a bitch.” Randall had a reputation during his playing years and was one of the most penalized, fined, and suspended players of his days, both because of his play as a tough guy and his use of foul language.

April 13,1927

To date, Billy Coutu has been the only player in NHL history to receive a lifetime ban. While playing for Boston in Game 4 of the 1927 Stanley Cup Final against the Ottawa Senators, defenseman Billy Coutu began a bench-clearing brawl between the two teams by punching referee Jerry LaFlamme and tackling assistant referee Billy Bell. It’s reported that Bruins coach Art Ross instructed Coutu to attack the officials but Ross was never disciplined.

The suspension was lifted on October 8, 1929, so that Coutu could play in affiliated minor leagues and he was ultimately reinstated by the league in 1932 after lobbying by Leo Dandurand, owner and coach of the Montreal Canadiens at the time, but Coutu never played in the NHL again.

Summer 1938

It was just prior to the 1938-39 season that the league officially added Rule 40– Physical Abuse of Officials – to the league rule book. (Note: The rule used to be #41 and #76 before becoming #40 as it is today.)

April 12, 1942

Jack Adams, coach for the Detroit Red Wings, was suspended for the remainder of the playoffs, after attacking referee Mel Hardwood. The Red Wings were up 3-0 in the series at the time of the incident and would go on to lose the series in a reverse sweep to the eventual Stanley Cup Champions, the Toronto Maple Leafs.

January 23, 1946

Technically, I shouldn’t have this incident on the list, but I found it too interesting to omit. Former player and future Hall of Famer King Clancy was refereeing a game between the Montreal Canadiens and Chicago Black Hawks when he was stabbed by a woman in the crowd. In those days, the boards had chicken wire instead of plexiglass so this woman was able to spear Clancy with her hatpin while he was up against the boards. At the next stoppage of play, Clancy refused to resume the game until the woman had been ejected from the arena.

March 13, 1955

Perhaps the most notorious case of “abuse of an official” occurred near the end of the 1954-55 season when Maurice Richard punched a referee. Richard had been high-sticked by Boston Bruins defenseman Hal Laycoe, causing a gash that later required five stitches to close. Richard reportedly skated at Laycoe with his stick, striking the Bruins player in the shoulder. Linesman Cliff Thompson attempted to restrain Richard, which caused Richard to turn around and punch Thompson in the head, knocking him unconscious. Richard was thrown out of the game and nearly arrested. Bruins’ management dissuaded the police from handcuffing Richard, instead allowing Richard to go to the hospital.

Perhaps the most interesting note is that in addition to his head wound, Richard suffered from headaches and stomach pain following the high-stick, which suggest he may have been concussed prior to his attack. This outburst was Richard’s second incident with an on-ice official that season, having slapped a linesman in the face only three months prior. He was fined $250 for that.

The suspension in part sparked the Richard Riots in Montreal. The Richard Riots have much more complicated roots than just the perceived unfair treatment of Richard by the league so I will leave this as some extra reading for those interested. And while video of the game exists, it seems that Richard’s actions were not caught on film. So below is a re-enactment of what reportedly happened.

Summer of 1966

The league added what is now Rule 40.4 to the official rules. Rule 40.4 declares that a player found to be deliberately applying physical force to an on-ice official will receive a game misconduct and automatic three game suspension.

February 8, 1967

In a game between the New York Rangers and Montreal Canadiens, each team had a player deliberately strike a referee, leading to a three game suspension for each player. Rangers’ forward Bernie “Boom Boom” Geoffrion was suspended for cross-checking linesman Walter Atanas and then shooting an empty beer can at him while leaving the playing surface. Then Habs enforcer John Ferguson was suspended for punching linesman Brent Caselman. During that same game, Habs defenseman Jean-Guy Talbot was fined $100 for “revolting language” used towards the officials.

April 2, 1969

My first actual video is of the incident that earned Forbes Kennedy a 4 game suspension, which served as the bookend to his career. Over the course of only a few minutes, the Toronto center goes after Boston goalie Gerry Cheevers near the end of an embarrassing 10-0 playoff loss to the Bruins. Forbes punches an official, knocking him to the ground, is hit by no less than three Boston fans reaching over the glass while trying to fight Cheevers, and lands a headbutt on John MacKenzie in his finishing bout. Kennedy’s retirement following this incident was ultimately due to knee injuries. He never served his suspension.

 April 25, 1982

Terry O’Reilly of the Boston Bruins was suspended for 10 games after he struck a referee Andy van Hellemond who had intervened in a fight he was having. O’Reilly already had a 3 game suspension in 1977 for throwing his gloves at and bumping into referee Dennis Morel. He also received an 8 game suspension for being the first player into the stands in the infamous game where Mike Milbury beat a fan with the fan’s own shoe. Below is a video of the 1982 incident.

Summer of 1982

The NHL added what are now Rules 40.2 and 40.3, which create harsher penalties for more deliberate and injurious cases of “physical abuse of an official.” Rule 40.2 is the one by which Wideman has been suspended for 20 games while Rule 40.3 is the rule that carries an automatic 10 game suspension. This was the last major revision to this set of rules.

October 30, 1983

During a game between the Chicago Blackhawks and Hartford Whalers, Chicago centerman Tom Lysiak attacked referee Ron Foyt, earned an automatic 20 game suspension. Lysiak had become increasingly frustrated at being thrown out of the face off circle during the game. He retaliated against Foyt by jabbing him in the back of the knee with his stick during a face off. Lysiak and the NHLPA appealed the suspension to the NHL Board of Governors unsuccessfully.

November 12, 1991

Los Angeles Kings head coach Tom Webster was ejected from a game for throwing a stick onto the ice and hitting referee Kerry Fraser in the skates. The league decided that Webster, after four ejections in only two seasons, would serve a 12 game suspension for his actions. At the time, it was the longest a coach had ever been suspended by the league.

January 26, 1992

Perennial youngster Jaromir Jagr, then with the Pittsburgh Penguins, was suspended for 10 games after intentionally skating into referee Ron Hoggarth from behind during a tense game against Washington. Mario Lemieux and Kevin Stevens were also tossed out of the game in the final minutes although neither committed actions requiring suspensions. Unfortunately, the video below does not capture Jagr skating into the official, but it shows all of these guys getting thrown out.

September 19, 2000

Gordie Dwyer of the Tampa Bay Lightning received one of the league’s longest suspensions to date, 23 games, after a game against the Capitals. Dwyer had left the penalty box looking for a fight in what ended up becoming a bench-clearing brawl. Dwyer verbally and physically abused officials while being restrained and had left the penalty box to do so. Those infractions carried 3 game, 10 game, and 10 game suspensions, respectively.

April 1, 2002; February 11, 2003; February 2007

Andre Roy was a hothead who was suspended for abuse of an official on three separate occasions. Each of his suspensions were just 3 games in length, but his 2002 incident also carried an automatic 10 game suspension for leaving the penalty box. Below is his 2003 incident.

January 7, 2011

Jesse Boulerice, while playing in the AHL for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, was handed a 10 game suspension for intentionally charging into a referee after the referee got in his way during play. Boulerice may be better known for his stick attack against Andrew Long when the two were playing in the OHL or his stick attack against Ryan Kesler on October 10, 2007. The former attack was a baseball swing to the head that resulted in Boulerice being charged with assault. The latter cross-check to the face earned Boulerice a 25-game suspension from the NHL. Both caused considerable damage to the victim.

May 22, 2014

During the 2014 Eastern Conference Final, Danny Carcillo of the New York Rangers elbowed the linesman restraining him twice, resulting in a 10-game suspension. Carcillo had this suspension reduced down to six games upon appeal to league commissioner, Gary Bettman.


I tried to summarize at least one major incident from every decade without going overboard. There is a surprise number of short suspensions and fines for “abuse of an official” through the NHL’s history. Are there any major incidents you think I missed? Please let me know.