NHL announces controversial decision on Morgan Rielly's suspension appeal

Ryan Smitheram
February 20, 2024  (1:20 PM)

Morgan Rielly has his suspension upheld
Photo credit: NHL

Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Morgan Rielly is slated to miss his 5th game of the 5-game suspension he received for cross-checking Ottawa Senators forward Ridly Greig last Saturday. Rielly and the NHLPA filed the appeal Wednesday, which led to Leafs GM Brad Treliving cancelling his meeting to addressing the media.

Rielly, joined by Treliving, NHLPA lawyers and his agent JP Barry met with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman Friday in New York at the NHL's head office. It is not often that Bettman rules against George Parros and the Department of Player Safety, with the last being when he reduced Jason Spezza's six game suspension in 2021 for hitting Winnipeg Jets defenceman Neal Pionk in the head to four games.
Today, the NHL and Bettman announced that Rielly's suspension will be upheld, which means Rielly will miss the Leafs' next game on Wednesday against the Arizona Coyotes. In his reasoning for upholding the suspension, Bettman noted that Rielly's actions were not just careless and reckless, but that they were intentional.
He also pointed to rule 18.2(d) regarding the situation of the game and explained that based on the rule, Rielly's actions "checked two of the three boxes" in that it was late in the game and there were prior events. Bettman also dismissed Ridly Greig's slapshot into the empty net and called it "irrelevant".
Once again, the NHL continues to have no consistent or clear way of handing out discipline and the fact that Bettman called the initial sequence of events irrelevant is ridiculous. On top of that, he also stated that Rielly would have been facing a longer suspension if it wasn't for his clean record prior to the incident. You can read Bettman's complete ruling here for comedic disbelief.
Rielly will be eligible to return for the Leafs' final two games of their four-game road trip on Thursday in Las Vegas and Saturday in Colorado. Without him, the Leafs have managed to go 4-0-0 with William Nylander saying that the suspension "lit a fire" under the team.
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NHL announces controversial decision on Morgan Rielly's suspension appeal

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