Why Gary Bettman Upheld Brad Marchand’s Six-Game Suspension

Marchand will miss two more games

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Feb 18, 2022

Brad Marchand was unsuccessful in his appeal of the six-game suspension he currently is serving, as NHL commissioner Gary Bettman on Friday chose to uphold the punishment.

Marchand was suspended for roughing and high-sticking Penguins goaltender Tristan Jarry when Pittsburgh visited the Boston Bruins at TD Garden on Feb. 8. Marchand since has missed four games, with the Bruins going 1-2-1 in that span.

The winger appealed the decision Wednesday, and on Friday the league made public a 13-page document in which Bettman explained why Marchand will serve the full six games. It seems Bettman is taking this incident pretty seriously, even though Jarry all but brushed it off following the Penguins’ 4-2 win.

“He created a distraction which reflected poorly on himself, on his team and on the League as a whole, and as such, I find he also deserves the penalty he received,” Bettman wrote. “Having said that, I encourage Mr. Marchand to reflect on this experience and to use it positively in furtherance of his efforts to refine and improve his on-ice image and game for everyone’s benefit.”

According to the decision, Marchand’s appeal — which took place at the NHL offices in New York — lasted two hours and 15 minutes. Bruins general manager Don Sweeney was among the attendees.

Bettman had a pretty positive impression of Marchand during the appeal, writing he “found Mr. Marchand to be forthright and sincere in expressing remorse for his conduct, which he did not attempt to defend and which he acknowledged was ‘stupid.'”

But Bettman decided the punishment fit the crime. He acknowledged that Marchand acted “without any intent to injure Mr. Jarry,” but “there is also no question that the conduct involved was intentional” and “involved excessive and unnecessary force.”

Under CBA Section 18.2(c), repeat offenders “will be more severely punished for each new violation.” Bettman cited that rule and noted this is Marchand’s eighth suspension and added he has been fined four times “for physical fouls.” He also specifically noted this is Marchand’s second suspension of the season, as the winger was suspended in November for slew-footing Oliver Ekman-Larsson.

Bettman also found that “the situation of the game” warranted the suspension. There were 25 seconds left in the game — which Boston trailed by two goals — when Marchand and Jarry got into it. That said, Bettman wrote that, under Section 18.2(d), penalties called by the officials “may be meaningless and supplementary discipline therefore necessary to punish and deter violations.”

The commissioner also noted there was “virtually no evidence of provocation” in the incident.

In closing, Bettman wrote that Marchand’s “conduct was intentional and involved an excessive and unnecessary use of force … consisted of two incidents — an unprovoked punch, followed by a high stick delivered after and despite the intervention of a linesman — that violated two League Playing Rules … was potentially dangerous and that danger was exacerbated by the fact that it was directed against an unsuspecting player who was not in a position to defend himself.”

He also acknowledged Marchand’s status as a so-called “repeat offender.”

Bettman also shot down attempts by the NHL Players Association, which suggested a four-game suspension, to compare the incident to others, including a pair of 2019 incidents between Milan Lucic and Kole Sherwood and Joe Thornton and Petr Mrazek.

“The NHLPA’s quest to find a player with a ‘comparable’ disciplinary history necessarily falls short. There simply is no player who has a disciplinary history comparable to Mr. Marchand’s,” he wrote.

Marchand still can file another appeal with an independent arbitrator. As it stands, he can return to the Bruins on Thursday when they travel to face the Seattle Kraken.

Thumbnail photo via Sergei Belski/USA TODAY Sports Images
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