The incident took place in the third period of Tuesday’s game against the Minnesota Wild. Vermette slashed Alphonso after the puck was dropped and was promptly issued a game misconduct.
The subsequent suspension was automatic under league rules pertaining to abuse of officials. Category II of Rule 40 was specifically applied in this case, which relates to “physical force” applied without intent to injure.
Vermette can and probably will appeal the suspension to NHL commissioner Gary Bettman. The process could eventually go to an independent arbitrator for a further appeal.
As to why Vermette slashed Alphonso, there’s all kinds of speculation.
The forward wasn’t doing very well in the faceoff circle on Tuesday and was operating at a mere 35.3 percent success rate on the draw. That’s well below his average of 62.4 percent, which suggests that some frustration may have been sinking in.
Some, like retired NHL referee Kerry Fraser, cite time of year as holding additional pressure.
“Historically, this is the time of year where the pressure starts to mount up a little up on teams that need points to get into the playoffs,” Fraser said. “They get grumpy and they get nasty. Every year at this point of the year we would have to work our tails off because they were fighting each other and flat out miserable.”
Consider that Calgary’s Dennis Wideman was suspended around the same time last year for flattening a linesman from behind. Or consider Anthony DeAngelo’s suspension last month for shoving an official.
Regardless of any additional heat on players to win games or faceoffs, Vermette was handed the standard punishment and will follow the standard procedure in the appeals process. Wideman’s initial 20-game suspension was reduced, so it seems only fair for a much less significant incident to see some decrease in term.