Interesting find from ESPN Tampa Bay's Mike Corcoran, who analyzed a fan-shot video of the Boston Bruins leaving the ice after Game 6 and noticed Nathan Horton(notes) spraying and then tossing a water bottle at the stands around the 1:30 mark:
It's a tad hard to make out, but the aftermath isn't, when this man retrieves the water bottle from the fan who was sprayed:
Obviously, I don't condone what happened at the end of the game with Lightning fans throwing their giveaways on the ice. That is dangerous and not acceptable for any fan of any team. At the same time, it becomes a little bit more of a situation when a player goes after a fan. Those are boundaries that should never be crossed, and it looks like one Bruins player did cross that boundary last night.
Before the 2010-11 season, the NHL made it clear that players spraying fans with water bottles, even when there's penalty box glass in between them, was outlawed. From the NHL's reinforced rules:
"Any identifiable player who uses obscene, profane or abusive language or gestures directed at any person runs the risk of an unsportsmanlike penalty and possible supplemental discipline."
(UPDATE: We've gotten some "is it really Horton?" comments. Here's an image from this video of David Krejci(notes) getting beaned with a hand drum that shows Horton reaching down to pick up the bottle, right after Lucic heads for the tunnel.)
Now, what about provocation? Like, for example, the morons in Tampa who were pelting Bruins players with hand drums as they left the ice following the Tampa Bay Lightning's 5-4 Game 6 victory? If you have a problem with Horton spraying someone that's chirping him after being showered with plastic noisemakers after a bitter loss, we'd respectfully remind you that these people aren't robots and to calm down about it.
Throwing the water bottle, as it appears Horton did, it's another issue.
It's what got New York Rangers coach John Tortorella suspended for a game in the 2009 playoffs. It comes after a regular season that saw Rick Rypien attack a taunting fan and get suspended six games for it.
The NHL should investigate this. If it's proven that Horton threw a water bottle at a fan, he should be suspended for Game 7. It sucks, it's hurt the Bruins, and it's totally provoked by the fans throwing things at the players. The NHL will likely use the context of the incident to leave it at a fine or no punishment at all.
But there's precedent with Tortorella, a warning with the preseason video and the fact that professionals need to carry themselves with more comportment than that. That adds up to a suspension, if the video accurately tells this story.
UPDATE: St. Pete Times writer Damien Cristodero reports "neither Boston's Nathan Horton nor the Lightning will face league discipline for water bottle/rally drum incident, NHL's Bill Daly says." Oh, to be inside John Tortorella's head on this one ...