Toronto Maple Leafs All-Star defenseman Morgan Rielly on Sunday accepted an offer for an in-person hearing with NHL Player Safety following his cross-check on Ottawa Senators forward Ridly Greig on Saturday night.
The league’s safety department posted on social media that the hearing will be held Tuesday at the NHL’s offices in New York. The Maple Leafs will host the St. Louis Blues later that night.
The incident in question occurred Saturday with 5.1 seconds remaining in Ottawa’s 5-3 win. After Greig took advantage of an empty net and whistled a slap shot from just beyond the crease to ice the game, Rielly took offense, sending Greig into the boards with a high hit. Rielly was assessed a major penalty for cross-checking and a game misconduct.
Typically, with empty-net goals — a sign the game’s outcome has been decided — the scoring team simply pushes or slides the puck into the net, perhaps even trying a wrist shot, so as not to show up the losing opponent. Very rarely do they wind up with a slap shot, especially so close to the crease.
“We obviously didn’t like the result on the empty-netter,” Toronto captain John Tavares said after the loss. “So, we’re going to stick together and stand our ground when necessary.”
Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe concurred with his captain.
“I thought it was appropriate,” Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe said after the loss, when asked his thoughts on Rielly’s decision. “I’m sure [the league] will look at it, yeah.”
That indeed happened Sunday, and the nature of the decision indicates a lengthier suspension than most. A player is offered an in-person hearing, in fact, if he faces a suspension of at least six games. If he accepts the hearing, Rielly will be suspended until the hearing takes place. If he waives an in-person hearing, it will be held by phone.
After the incident, Keefe sent out enforcer Ryan Reaves for the final faceoff, and a potential ensuing retaliation, but the officials quickly jumped in to prevent a brawl.
“He was reacting to a play,” Keefe said of Rielly. “Their player has the right to do what he wants in that moment. And our players have the right to react. And it’s the emotions of the game.”
Ottawa coach Jacques Martin saw Saturday’s situation differently.
“He put the puck in the net,” he said of Greig. “Whether he shoots it or pushes it, [Rielly’s reaction], that shouldn’t happen.
“That’s not a hockey play. That’s just frustration or something. It’s not part of the game.”
Rielly, the fifth overall pick of the 2012 NHL draft by Toronto, just took part in All-Star Weekend festivities earlier this month. He is in his 11th season with the Maple Leafs and has never been suspended.
Rielly has seven goals and 43 points this season, good for fourth in scoring on the club.
Information from Field Level Media and the Associated Press was used in this report.