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.