The punishment doesn’t always fit the crime, especially in the NHL’s fine system. In early October, some fans were outraged when St. Louis Blues defenseman Robert Bortuzzo received a fine of just over $3,000 for repeated cross check to the back of New York Islanders forward Brock Nelson. The fine was the maximum amount prescribed by the NHL collective bargaining agreement, but many felt that such a relatively small amount of money was not nearly enough for a fairly brutal showing by Bortuzzo.
Now, the script has flipped. Tampa Bay Lightning forwards Steven Stamkos and Alex Killorn and New York Rangers counterpart Kevin Hayes have all been fined $5,000 for a conspiracy of… water squirting? TSN reports that in Thursday night’s game the trio all engaged in what the league has defined as unsportsmanlike conduct. Hayes got the affair started when he sprayed Killorn with water from the Rangers’ bench prior to the pair taking the ice. On the ensuing face-off, Killorn retaliated with multiple jabs directed at Hayes, for which he received a slashing penalty. In defense of the perceived wrong to his teammate, Stamkos went the “eye for an eye” route and sprayed water at the Rangers bench. All three were determined to be equally guilty in the affair, while J.T. Brown and Steven Kampfer, whose fight was heavily endorsed by their respective benches, received no share of the blame.
Objectively, it seems silly for water squirting to warrant a $5,000 fine, even if that amount is equivalent to roughly $5 for the majority. However, in the context of Bortuzzo’s maximum $3,000 fine for cross-checking, it seems that the league has their priorities out of alignment. A re-haul to the fine structure in the CBA may be need to be addressed at the table during the league’s next bargaining, if not sooner.