Erik Erlendsson covers the Tampa Bay Lightning for The Tampa Tribune.
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Does Nathan Horton deserve to be suspended for squirting a fan with water?
Posted May 26, 2011 by Erik Erlendsson
Updated May 26, 2011 at 08:02 PM
A video circulating around You Tube (see below) Thursday morning caught the eye of many around the league for an incident involving an unidentified Bruins player and a Lightning fan near the Boston bench.
At the end of Tampa Bay’s 5-4 victory in Game 6, fans began to throw rally drums onto the ice as Boston players left the ice and onto the bench to head back to the locker room. At one point, one of the rally drums strikes a Bruins’ player, possibly David Krejci, on top of his helmet as he’s standing near the bench. Another player, who appears to be Nathan Horton, comes behind and pulls a water bottle off the bench area and squirts a fan in a blue Lightning t-shirt before Horton throws the bottle at the fan.
An usher is seen immediately grabbing the fan by the shirt and holds on for several moments before retrieving the water bottle and throwing it back on the Boston bench.
Horton was not made available when the Bruins held their media session upon arriving back in Boston and the subject was not brought up to head coach Claude Julien.
The league was aware of the incident, but no suspension is expected prior to tonight’s Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final, according to NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly, although he did not rule out the possibility of a fine up to the maximum of $2,500 under the CBA.
“It’s possible (a fine could be levied) but no decision has been made at this time,’’ Daly wrote in an email early Thursday evening. “Still not certain we can really establish exactly what happened.’’
New York Rangers coach John Tortorella received a one-game suspension for a similar incident involving a Washington Capitals fan behind the New York bench during the 2009 playoffs.
At the time, NHL Director of Hockey Operations issued a statement regarding Tortorella’s actions and the reason for the suspension of a playoff game.
“While it is a difficult decision to suspend a coach at this point in a playoff series, it has been made clear to all of our players, coaches and other bench personnel that the National Hockey League cannot—and will not—tolerate any physical contact with fans,” NHL Senior Executive Vice President and Director of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell said. “We do not take this action lightly. It is the result of an entire day of investigation and evaluation that included the retrieval and review of videotape of the incident and discussions with Mr. Tortorella, other Rangers’ bench personnel and a number of other people, including the security personnel at the Verizon Center.
“That investigation revealed that Mr. Tortorella squirted a fan with water before Mr. Tortorella was doused with a beverage.
“While, in these circumstances, it always is easy to allege mitigating circumstances, the fact is we do not tolerate contact with our fans in this manner. That is communicated before each season in a memo that is issued by the League to all of the management, coaches and players of every team.
“The Sept. 8, 2008, memo, entitled ‘Supplementary Discipline Reminders for the 2008-09 Season,’ included the following section regarding Contact With Fans:
Even where a fan is verbally abusive, intoxicated, or profane, club personnel should either ignore the conduct or, where appropriate, seek the assistance of police or security personnel at the arena. This prohibition extends to all forms of physical contact, whether it be direct physical contact, the throwing of objects (including hockey sticks and other equipment) or even the squirting of water. While the latter form of conduct may have, in the past, seemed to be of a minor or harmless character, such conduct may serve only to incite and provoke an unruly fan and may ultimately lead to unforeseen consequences.
Accordingly, please be on notice that all Club personnel (management, coaches, trainers, and/or players) who engage in any form of physical contact with fans, including the squirting of water, will, on a going forward basis, be subject to discipline in the form of a suspension. The Club involved will also be subject to a fine.’‘