The NHL assesses supplementary discipline for all manner of untoward conduct. Players get fined and suspended for cheap shots, for hits high (to the head) and low (to the knee). Players get suspended for racial slurs and other improper language. Coaches get fined for complaining about referees. The NHL disciplinary process seems like a 24/7 event, with the new discipline czar, Brendan Shanahan, constantly under siege.
But what happens when a player sitting on the bench – say Ryan Clowe of the San Jose Sharks – reaches his stick onto the ice and incredibly plays a puck from there, interfering with Jarrett Stoll of the Los Angeles Kings as Stoll was carrying the puck up the ice? And what if Clowe's actions happened in a tie game, late in regulation, with the Kings on a power play and maybe in a position to win in regulation? And what if, in actual fact, San Jose goes on to win in the shootout, further muddling playoff positioning in the Western Conference?
Answer: Nobody knows. Clowe did a silly thing and the fact that every official on the ice missed it as well – even with all the Kings' players on the ice trying to help them make the call – isn't good either.
"I've never seen that before," said Kings' defenceman Drew Doughty, who was out there, with team captain Dustin Brown, gesticulating wildly to the officials - but to no avail. "That could have been the difference in the game if the refs would have caught that. Sometimes they aren't going to see things; I'm sure it's hard for them to catch that, but if they got that it would have been a 5-on-3 and another good chance for us to capitalize. The game is over now and they didn't and now we just have to look forward to the next game and we have to win."
As it was, the Sharks picked up two points to tie the Kings with 94 points, meaning whoever wins Saturday's rematch in San Jose finishes ahead of the other team in the standings. This was big, in other words.
For his part, Clowe – who was massively effective for the Sharks, in picking up the Gordie Howe hat trick, with a goal, an assist and a fight - disavowed any knowledge of what the heck reporters were talking about. That's exactly what he said too: "I have no idea what you guys are talking about. I'll have to see the video or something. Someone show me the video."
Maybe NHL discipline czar Brendan Shanahan can oblige Clowe later today. The ball is clearly in his court.