Did Mikhail Grabovski bite Max Pacioretty?

It’s the storyline that’s dominating SEO headlines this morning. “Did Mikhail Grabovski bite Max Pacioretty in last night’s 6-0 win over the Leafs?”

The video is below. Certainly the still from above makes it look like Grabovski is eating a Pacioretty sandwich. It still leaves one unanswered question, which is a) does it really matter if Grabovski bit Pacioretty?

NHL Rule 21 alphabetically sorts what can and can’t be a match penalty on page 131 of the rulebook. It includes, but is not limited to, butt-ending, clipping, grabbing of the face mask, hair pulling, slew-footing, or the ever-dangerous ‘goalkeeper who uses his blocking glove to the head or face of an opponent’. 

Grabovski was not given a match penalty for his part in the altercation midway through the third period last night. He got two for roughing and a ten-minute misconduct, along with Brandon Prust and Pacioretty. The specific rule where biting is mentioned in the rulebook is Rule 75.2, unsportsmanlike conduct:

(ii) Any player who is guilty of unsportsmanlike conduct including, but not limited to hair-pulling, biting, grabbing hold of a face mask, etc:. If warranted, and specifically when injury results, the referee may apply Rule 21 — Match Penalties.

Pacioretty made his case to the official, and apparently the referee wasn’t convinced, since Grabovski earned a roughing penalty, not an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. PPP has already stated the argument that “despite Pacioretty’s frantic pursuit of the referees they did not feel there was any evidence of a bad bite” so I don’t really need to go further. Nobody wants to see a 6-0 game last until the bitter end with bouts of unsportsmanlike conduct, which is why a bunch of players picked up misconducts late.

Sean Fitz-Gerald is reporting that the league has scheduled a phone hearing with Grabovski on Sunday. That’s fair, but it’s little more than administrative. I can’t find a list of suspensions, but I can’t think to any times a player has actually been suspended for biting. The video above is pretty clear that a bite took place, either that or Grabovski has sharp nails and Pacioretty has sensitive skin.

I guess in a hockey context, the bite “matters” when dealing with the archaic “Code” and presumably somebody is going to have to fight Grabovski now, which will mean he will never ever do it again. The real important thing is that penalties for bites in the NHL hardly matter. I don’t think I’ve seen a player bit in a situation that wasn’t a scrum that often results in equal penalties or an extra two, but the “extra two” has never been for Unsportsmanlike Conduct (BITING).

If it happened, great. If it didn’t happen, great. It’s an infraction that doesn’t matter when looking at future games, and the only lasting consequence will be that boring writers in the press box will make “Grabovski has some bite to his game” jokes until the end of the season. That, and the Montreal Gazette’s Dave Stubbs will ghostwrite Max Pacioretty’s horrific and telling account of the time he was bit in an NHL team by a member of the Big Bad Leafs.

  • Jprime

    to start….I’m a habs fan but if it was possible, I’d trade the canadiens to bring the expos back. Figured that could set the tone for this post and so anybody reading this wouldn’t just think I’m another one of those “living in the past glory days” kinda fans….

    As long as leafs and habs fans still cheer so hard for these teams 20 and 50 years since the last cup were won were all just a bunch of idiots….

    The leafs played a good game and deserved the win, but for both teams, the greatest moments of this year are now in the books. The habs were 6&2 and last night’s 6-0 win was your greatest moment of the year. We should all now come back to reality and realize that both teams are at least 5 years away from contending.

    I was proud to see the habs at least “try” to stand up for themselves, albeit not very intelligent for gorges to fight the McClaren…but good for him….

    The leafs are a tough team, but it’s only in the bottom 3 and bottom forwards and bottom 2 D….and those guys aren’t real NHLers. Yah your team is tough but the leafs are so bad that they can’t field a full roster of players so it’s a sensible move to make the bottom 5 a bunch of goons. All I saw was gionta getting hit over-and-over again….

    on TSN now are 2 REAL hockey teams, DET and LA….we should ALL be watching this game and doing something better on saturday nights then cheering for our “beloved” teams, The Habs and Leafs are meaningless teams, who played a meaningless game last night, in a meaningless short season….

    yes sir….go Blue Jays i guess….

  • Jprime

    …………”The video above is pretty clear that a bite took place”…………

    What a BS assumption. Pacioretty puts his forearm across Grabovski’s mouth and pulls back hard and to the side, raking his forearm across his mouth. If he felt teeth it’s easily explainable that he may have done it to himself. I’ve had the same thing happen to me when play fighting with my brothers years ago. Maybe he did, maybe he didn’t, but there is no clear evidence on that video.

  • Jprime

    The bad thing about this game is that there will be payback.

    Recall after Miller was ran by Lucic, the Sabres brought in John Scott this season to settle the score. And after the Patcioretty/Chara indicident, the teams had the brawl in the next meeting. Also, the Penguins/Islander had a brawl last season in the their final meeting after Brent Johnson and co destroyed Dipietro’s jaw and the Islanders.

    If you are fan of this type of hockey, then you will look forward to next meeting and Carlyle type of hockey. But if not, there appears to be an ongoing trend of the resurrection of the enforcer in the league. That part of hockey, I’m not so happy about. You can think Burke for that. Yet another way Burke has ruined the leafs and the game.

  • Jprime

    @ Montreal Jay

    Your post is depressing. As a true fan of the sport i would NEVER say that my leafs are meaningless. At the same time you will never see me out of this world saying the leafs will win the cup. BUT, you should never put your own team down.

    @ Cam Charron

    Nice article, as always. But i have to agree with Top Shelf; there does not seem to be concrete evidence a bite took place. It may have, i am not saying he didnt.


    Fighting and the “rough stuff” have been a part of hockey for a long time. The “enforcer” has never been taken out of hockey. The league just finds enforcers that can play the game at a pro level ie Laraque, Brown, Scott, Chara, Engeland, etc.

    The “rough stuff” needs to be a part of the game. If the NHL ever took fighting out, you would have the same problems as junior hockey on the international stage. Every so often is International tournaments where fighting is banned, you get all out blood baths because these hockey players have so much bottles up anger.

    Example: The 1087 world juniors game between Canada and Russia. That was an all out brawl that could not be controlled. Referee’s left the ice for their own safety and the arena operators were asked to turn off the lights to try and get control. That didn’t even help. By the end of it, there was some russian players out cold on the ice.

    IMHO, a fight or two during that game could have stopped that all out brawl, or maybe not. Who knows. Just my thoughts

  • Jprime

    >but I can’t think to any times a player has
    >actually been suspended for biting.

    Marc Savard got a one game suspension for biting Darcy Tucker back in 2003. That was a pretty clear bite though.