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Suspension for Lucic was Overkill

November 6, 2019, 12:33 PM ET [8 Comments]
Paul Stewart
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It's funny how timing works out sometimes. During a book signing event last weekend, I was asked if I remembered a play against the Islanders from my own playing days -- not mentioned in "Ya Wanna Go?" -- in which I mixed it up with goalie Billy Smith and defenseman Gordie Lane.

I remember it well. I was skating in front of the net, trying set up a screen and accidentally brushed into Smith. He responded as Battlin' Billy usually did. He slashed me. Before I could even respond, Lane popped me with a sucker punch and I was knocked to my knees. I responded with an uppercut and several more punches as Gordie went down.

None of it was personal. It's just hockey. Maybe Lane pushed the envelope a little too far but it's always been an unwritten rule to stand up for your goalie, and I had made contact with Smith. I didn't mind it. Lane and I both got five minutes for fighting. A single punch is sufficient for a fighting major.

Fast forward 40 years and thousands of similar on-ice exchanges later. In a game between Calgary and Columbus, the Blue Jackets' Kole Sherwood jabbed at Calgary goalie David Rittich -- more provocation than Lane had with me, but a similar response as Milan Lucic came in and popped Sherwood. Actually, Lane hit me much harder than Lucic hit Sherwood.

Lucic got a two-game suspension, basically for being a bit overzealous in doing something every player is taught to do. I think it's overkill. I thought a double-roughing minor on Lucic and a four-minute power play for Columbus would have sufficed, and probably would have been my call if I were refereeing the game. If I were in a league discipline chair, I would not have suspended Lucic for this one.

As suspension-worthy sucker punches go, I think about the premeditated Tie Domi sucker-punch on Ulf Samuelsson. In this situation, Lucic's actions were certainly worth a penalty -- maybe even a match penalty if the referees think it was THAT severe -- but it wasn't worthy of supplementary discipline, in my opinion. Maybe Lucic should have contented himself with giving Sherwood a face-wash. Maybe he could have taken down the number for a future receipt. Maybe. But if he pushed the envelope a bit, it wasn't pushed to a suspension-type level in my old-school eyes.


A 2018 inductee into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame, Paul Stewart holds the distinction of being the first U.S.-born citizen to make it to the NHL as both a player and referee. On March 15, 2003, he became the first American-born referee to officiate in 1,000 NHL games.

Visit Paul's official websites, YaWannaGo.com and Officiating by Stewart.
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