Ryane Clowe Faces Potential 10-Game Suspension for Allegedly Leaving Bench To Attack Andrew Shaw, Appears Guilty

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As reported by TSN’s Darren Dreger, Ryane Clowe has been offered an in-person disciplinary-hearing on monday for allegedly leaving the bench during the Sharks’ 2-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on friday to attack forward Andrew Shaw in retaliation for Shaw’s hit on Joe Pavelski.

Rule 70. 1 of the NHL rule book, titled “Leaving the Bench,” reads:

No player or goalkeeper may leave the players’ or penalty bench at any time during an altercation or for the purpose of starting an altercation. Substitutions made prior to the altercation shall be permitted provided the players so substituting do not enter the altercation.

If found guilty, Clowe will face an automatic ten-game suspension, and head coach Todd Mclellan will be liable for disciplinary punishment from the league as well.

So is Clowe guilty? Ryane Clowe clearly left the bench to start an altercation with Shaw, as this video (and the screenshots I’ve taken from it, shown later in the blog) clearly shows. The only question is if he came onto the ice via a legal line change, although even if he had, he would likely still face a suspension for instigating the altercation itself right after he came off the bench, and during the last 10 seconds of the game no less, as described in Rule 70. 2 of the NHL rule book, “Legal Line Change”:

A player who has entered the game on a legal line change or legally from the penalty bench (penalty time has expired) who starts an altercation may be subject to discipline in accordance with Rule 28 – Supplementary Discipline.

However, the punishment for coming off the bench and starting an altercation as a sixth skater, without any legal line change is significantly more severe than if you do it after a legal line change, an automatic ten-game suspension according to what I’m hearing (although I haven’t been able to find that in the rule book).

Neither the San Jose Sharks’ nor the Chicago Blackhawks’ television broadcast stayed glued to the Sharks’ bench for the entirety of the event, so Clowe cannot be seen leaving the bench in a camera shot that also shows the location of all the other five Sharks’ players who preceded him on the ice. Therefore Clowe may be hopeful that without looking at the video more closely, it could be difficult for the NHL to prove that he did not actually come on the ice via a legal line change as opposed to leaving the bench as a sixth skater to start an altercation.

Unfortunately (in my opinion) for Clowe, the referees and linesmen on the ice saw what happened even if the video cameras did not capture it quite as clearly, and those officials report back to the NHL in these disciplinary matters. Some fans saw Clowe leave the bench as a sixth skater to start an altercation as well (the link shows just one example).

Moreover, a closer look at the video captured by CSN Chicago also appears to prove Clowe is guilty of being the sixth skater leaving the bench and that no legal line change took place, as you can see in the following screenshots taken from CSN Chicago’s video of the incident. The only potential defense Clowe has that some Sharks fans are throwing out there is that he came on the ice for Joe Pavelski (or if not Pavelski, it would have to be Couture, as Clowe is a winger and those were the only two wingers on the ice), but these screenshots show that story to be false. See below:

Clowe Screenshot #1

In this first screenshot (above), we see Clowe on the far left having already left the bench and charging towards Andrew Shaw, even though Joe Pavelski is still on the ice after getting up from Shaw’s hit, as is Logan Couture.

At least in this screenshot, Pavelski appears to be going towards the bench for a line change, which would validate Clowe’s defense that he came on the ice via a legal line change, but screenshots from further on in the video show this to be an optical illusion, as Pavelski never leaves the ice.

Ryane Clowe Screenshot #2

Here in screenshot #2, a few seconds later in the video, where Clowe has even managed to make contact with Shaw, yet Pavelski and Couture (the only wingers he could have come on the ice for) are both still on the ice. This alone is enough to constitute a sixth skater on the ice infraction for starting an altercation.

Ryane Clowe Screenshot #3

A few seconds later still, Ryane Clowe has managed to fight off the referee holding him back and tackle Andrew Shaw to the ice (how very… Ryane Clowe-y…), and Pavelski is still on the ice, having circled back towards Clowe, as is Couture. We’re at least ten seconds after Clowe initially came off the bench as a sixth skater to ambush Andrew Shaw, and Pavelski, who some Sharks fans claim Clowe was supposedly coming on the ice for, is still on the ice, as is Logan Couture. That’s either the slowest line change in NHL history or it wasn’t actually a line change.


Clowe Screenshot #4

Ryane Clowe Screenshot #5

Another second or two later and Pavelski and Couture are still on the ice. I should mention that Havlat has come on the ice at some point during this as well, but he wasn’t one of the original five skaters on the ice nor did he get involved in any altercation after coming on the ice like Clowe did, so I’m just going to ignore him, although technically he probably should have stayed on the bench.

Clowe Screenshot #6

And finally, in the last screenshot, here is Ryane Clowe trying to make his way back to the bench, while Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture still remain on the ice, waiting to continue their shift. If this was actually planned to be a real line change where Pavelski and-or Couture were supposed to come off the ice, their shift over, then they wouldn’t have both just stood there on the ice throughout Clowe’s entire one-act masterpiece of a performance, Couture resting his weight on his knees and Pavelski watching Clowe’s charade from his front-row seat, waiting to resume their shift on the ice while Clowe, who would have been scheduled to come on the ice and take the next shift if this had actually been a real, planned line-change, goes off the ice.

This one’s pretty cut and dry to me, folks. If you made the following two statements, one–that I use italics way too much, and two–that Ryane Clowe is guilty here, I would say that both are equally true and without much doubt in my opinion. Ryane Clowe came off the bench as a sixth skater to ambush Andrew Shaw and start an altercation in retaliation for Shaw’s hit on Joe Pavelski, and unfortunately that means I expect to see him suspended for the next ten games.

Regardless of what Shaw did, and Shaw did board Pavelski on a play that deserved a minor penalty (although boarding penalties that don’t result in injury don’t usually earn suspensions under Shanahan), you just cannot do what Clowe did here. It is one of the cardinal rules in hockey that you don’t come off the bench and create an out-numbered situation, because you risk seriously injuring another player who is not expecting someone to come attack him from the bench when he knows there are already five skaters on the ice, not to mention you also risk starting a huge bench-clearing brawl between forty different hockey players on hard ice with sharp skates and composite sticks.

It’s a recipe for disaster, and there’s a reason staying on the bench while you have five teammates on the ice and not interfering with play from the bench (or attacking someone from it) is a sacred rule (or understanding) among players to the integrity of the game.

The NHL decided not to punish Ryane Clowe at all last season when he decided to interfere with play by breaking up an LA Kings’ odd-man rush with his stick, another potentially dangerous play (not to mention cheating), and maybe this is their punishment. Clowe clearly got the message the NHL sent him with their inaction last season that it is acceptable for him to take matters into his own hands from the bench and interfere with play, and that failing to control himself and his actions on the ice, which he has done repeatedly in various forms over the past few seasons, will not be met with any discipline or recourse.

The NHL likely realizes they sent the wrong message to Clowe last time and are partly to blame for Clowe’s latest antics as a result, and that’s just another reason why I expect them to come down hard on Clowe this time (not that the automatic-suspension rule in place will give them much choice).

And even though I’m a Sharks’ fan, and probably one of the few who actually still believes the Sharks are a better team with Clowe in the lineup, I won’t be able to blame them if they do suspend Clowe. In fact, given the evidence, that small part of me that still remains somewhat objective about the NHL (well, bigger than some fans I like to think) would probably blame the NHL if they didn’t suspend him. Clowe has had a suspension coming for a while now with some of the stuff he’s pulled the last few seasons, and you just cannot come off the bench and go after someone like that.

Written by Shark Circle