Ryane Clowe of the San Jose Sharks had the most controversial poke check of the NHL season on Thursday night, jabbing the puck away from Los Angeles Kings forward Jarret Stoll on a power-play rush … from the Sharks' bench.
Watch this incredibly ballsy (and illegal) play here. All four officials missed it, Clowe was un-penalized, and the Kings went on to lose in a shootout to the Sharks, 6-5, putting their Pacific Division title in jeopardy.
When asked about the play after the game, Clowe said he had no idea what the media was talking about. Kings governor Tim Leiweke, however, said: "It's a shame that a guy can cheat and get away with it in a game this important."
Turns out he will completely get away with it: According to an NHL source, Clowe will not be fined nor suspended for playing the puck from the bench.
Why? Because the current NHL rules don't provide an avenue to punish Clowe through the Dept. of Player Safety. From Rule 56.2 — Interference:
A minor penalty shall be imposed on any identifiable player on the players' bench or penalty bench who, by means of his stick or his body, interferes with the movements of the puck or any opponent on the ice during the progress of the play. In addition, should a player about to come onto the ice, play the puck while one or both skates are still on the players' or penalty bench, a minor penalty for interference shall be assessed.
The appropriate penalty according to the playing rules shall be assessed when a player on the players' or penalty bench gets involved with an opponent on the ice during a stoppage in play. The player(s) involved may be subject to additional sanctions as appropriate pursuant to Rule 28 — Supplementary Discipline.
Supplemental discipline here only applies to players on the bench that get involved in a stoppage. For what Clowe did, the only recourse under the current rules would have been a minor penalty. There's no provision for a fine or suspension, or even a game misconduct.
For the Kings fans going bat-poop crazy about this play, this is what we call a "loophole" in the rulebook.
How many NHL players knew before last night that you could play the puck from the bench to, say, break up a breakaway and they'd only get a minor penalty for it?
We're not saying this is definitely something that'll be addressed by the NHL GMs or Board of Governors going forward, but the vibe we get is that had there been a provision for a fine in this case, Clowe probably would have gotten at least that.
Via ESPN LA, here's some postgame reaction from the Kings and Sharks on the Clowe play: