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Does Paul Bissonnette have a case in appealing 10-game ban for leaving bench during fight?

Greg Wyshynski
Puck Daddy

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Paul Bissonnette of the Phoenix Coyotes was handed an automatic 10-game suspension by the NHL on Sept. 16 for receiving a game misconduct for “leaving the bench on an illegal line change to join an altercation.”

But the man they call BizNasty doesn’t agree with the NHL’s version of the events, and is appealing the ban.

In a preseason game against the Los Angeles Kings, Jordan Nolan of LA took out Rusty Klesla with an open ice hit that sent him off on a stretcher. Martin Hanzal, who previously policed the hit and went off with a matching minor with Nolan, elbowed Nolan when the two exited the penalty box.

Max Domi of the Coyotes was headed to the bench when Bissonnette jumped off the pine and joined an altercation involving Nolan.

Rule 70.6 states: “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 Bissonnette defense, as we understand it, is that he changed for Max Domi and that the scrum started as he did – Bissonnette didn’t spark the melee. In fact, despite having Nolan in the middle of it, Bissonnette didn’t even fight him.

Why the confusion? Domi came back from the bench to the scrum, giving the appearance of an illegal line change.

The NHL disagrees with this. Via Craig Morgan of Fox Sports Arizona:

NHL spokesperson John Dellapina said one of the points of the illegal line change rule is to prohibit teams from creating an artificial manpower advantage during an altercation. That's why it doesn't matter how aggressive Bissonnette was upon arriving at the scrum -- simply by being there he creates an odd-man situation that could free up a teammate to do damage.

In the video NHL has, Domi clearly is in the middle of the scrum when Bissonnette arrives. If one were changing for the other, somebody should have been on the bench, Dellapina explained.

That’s a matter of perception, course. One person’s “odd-man advantage in a fight” is another person’s “team enforcer enters the fray to maintain order.”

Bissonnette can play in the preseason, but would lose $37,820.51 in salary – and, one assumes, about 50 minutes of total ice time – if the 10-game ban is upheld.

He’s the first player to test the appeals process in the NHL under the new CBA, wherein players that are suspended for six or more games can fight the ban. The first stage of the appeal is Gary Bettman; but “a subsequent appeal right to a neutral arbitrator will be available” to Bissonnette as well, an arbitrator who will have “full remedial authority in respect of the matter.”

It sounds as though Bissonnette’s suspension hinges on what Domi was doing during the start of the altercation, because the NHL doesn’t seem to care what BizNasty was doing in the scrum. And if it’s Domi’s fault … well, does he get the gate from the NHL then?

Whatever happens, remember: T-shirts are available.

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