Morgan Rielly's five-game suspension upheld: Gary Bettman explains why he rejected Maple Leafs star's appeal



Earlier this month, Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman delivered a cross-check to the head of Ottawa Senators Ridly Greig after Greig scored an open-net goal via a slap shot on Feb. 10. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman listened to Rielly’s appeal last Friday, and has announced the Maple Leafs defenseman’s suspension is being upheld.

Bettman revealed his decision in an 11-page ruling, writing that even though “the game was effectively over, Mr. Rielly changed his course and skated toward Mr. Greig with purpose.” The NHL commissioner also believed Rielly raced over to raise his stick and intentionally struck Greig’s head with a large amount of force.

The NHL Players Association filed the appeal on behalf of Rielly, and it made the case that Rielly didn’t intentionally cross-check Greig in the head. Instead, the NHLPA argued Rielly meant to strike Grieg’s body.

The NHLPA also made the argument that a five-game suspension was very excessive compared to similar scenarios in the past. However, Bettman stated there isn’t an exact science when it comes to deciding the appropriate discipline for certain plays.

Bettman believes Rielly raised his stick in coordination with Greig’s head, and “drove it forcefully and intentionally” into Greig. 

“This is not a case where Mr. Rielly’s stick was delivered to the midsection or shoulder and ‘rode up’ to Mr. Greig’s head,” Bettman added.

According to the ruling, Bettman believed Rielly and Greig weren’t going toe-to-toe, and this wasn’t an inadvertent high-sticking play.

“Rather, as Mr. Rielly himself acknowledged, he sought retribution for what he perceived to be a ‘disrespectful’ act that he believed was intended to embarrass Toronto,” Bettman wrote in his ruling. “Although much of the testimony offered by [Rielly, Maple Leafs GM Brad Treliving and team president Brendan Shanahan] at the hearing concerned whether Mr. Greig’s slapshot was provocative, that discussion is utterly irrelevant.”

Rielly served the final game of his five-game suspension when the Maple Leafs faced the Arizona Coyotes on Wednesday. The Toronto defenseman is now eligible to return to the lineup Thursday against the Vegas Golden Knights.





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