NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has decided to uphold the six-game suspension of Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand, releasing a 13-page ruling today. Marchand can now choose to appeal to a neutral arbitrator, though since he has already served four of the six games and will have finished the suspension by Monday, it would essentially only be to recoup some of the salary he has lost in this process.
In his ruling, Bettman states:
Finally, in reaching my conclusions I have given careful consideration to Mr. Marchand’s testimony concerning his efforts to control his emotions in order to excel as an impact player who plays aggressively, but within the rules. I believe that he has already made significant strides towards achieving this goal. Unfortunately, however, Mr. Marchand’s behavior and lack of judgment in respect of these incidents did not meet acceptable NHL standards. He created a distraction which reflected poorly on himself, on his team and on the League as a whole, and as such, I find he also deserves the penalty he received. Having said that, I encourage Mr. Marchand to reflect on this experience and to use it positively in furtherance of his efforts to refine and improve his on-ice image and game for everyone’s benefit.
In their defense of Marchand, the NHLPA tried to compare this incident to one in 2019 when Milan Lucic was given a two-game suspension for punching Kole Sherwood, one in 2019 when Joe Thornton was not given any supplementary discipline for punching Petr Mrazek, and one in 2019 when Radko Gudas received a two-game suspension for high-sticking Nikita Kucherov. All three were deconstructed by Bettman, with Marchand’s lengthy disciplinary history being one of the major factors to prove they were dissimilar.
Notably, it also explains that Marchand was being suspended for both the punch and the high-stick, leading to the six-game ban when combined with his history. The Bruins forward has now been suspended eight times and fined four times for physical fouls in his NHL career. Bettman explains just how serious this history is:
No active player has been suspended more times than Mr. Marchand; this is his eighth suspension. In addition, he has been fined four times for physical fouls. Although the on-ice penalty calls that resulted in supplementary discipline have varied in their specifics, all have involved serious violations, including elbowing, slew footing, clipping, roughing, spearing, cross-checking and (now) high sticking. It is, to say the least, an unenviable record. And (again), to make matters worse, Mr. Marchand’s most recent suspension prior to this one occurred less than three months ago, when he was suspended for three games for slew footing Vancouver Canucks player Oliver Ekman-Larsson on November 28, 2021.
An appeal to a neutral arbitrator would almost certainly take more than three days, meaning Marchand will be out for the next two matches regardless of what happens next. If he does go through with it and it is eventually reduced, it would provide the Bruins forward with two benefits. One, he would win back some of the money he has forfeited with this suspension, and two, the suspension would–while still on his record–appear as a shorter sentence.