The NHL Department of Player Safety has made a ruling today on an incident that no one has considered ripe for supplemental discipline. Player Safety announced that veteran Pittsburgh Penguins center Matt Cullen has received a $1,000 fine for a “dangerous trip” of the Tampa Bay Lightning’s J.T. Miller in last night’s game. A minimum fine by any measure for a pro athlete, $1,000 equates to 0.0015 of Cullen’s $650K salary or approximately one-eighth of his game check.
The incident in question occurred late in the first period of a 4-3 win for the Lightning. Cullen’s stick appeared to jab Miller in the back of the right leg as he was about receive a pass in the offensive zone, sending the Bolts forward toppling backward. Cullen was assessed a two-minute minor penalty for tripping and Brayden Point scored on the resulting power play for Tampa Bay. Apparently, this was not enough for Player Safety who, while not expanding on their decision, felt that this trip qualified as “dangerous” and worthy of a fine.
Cullen recently voiced his opinion about the NHL’s system of punishing its players, citing his displeasure with the appeals process and the overturned suspension by a neutral arbitrator of rival Washington Capitals forward Tom Wilson. Cullen, 42, is a well-respected veteran player who himself likely has a future beyond his playing days with the league or in a front office. Yet, there would be quite a degree of comical irony if he was to appeal his own minor punishment, perhaps even all the way to a neutral arbitrator. Seeing as this fine is relatively random, he may even have a case. Cullen, of course, is unlikely to move forward with an appeal of $1,000 fine unless only to display his own opinion on the redundancy of the NHL’s appeals process.