Nazem Kadri’s eight-game suspension from the NHL was upheld by an independent arbitrator on Tuesday.
Kadri received the nearly double-digit ban after nailing Justin Faulk with a blindside hit to the head during Game Two of the Avalanche-Blues’ first-round series on May 19.
On May 21, the Department of Player Safety suspended Kadri, terming it an illegal check to the head and citing his “substantial disciplinary history.”
Kadri would first opt to go to arbitration with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman arguing the penalty was excessive and that he deserved only a four-game ban. Bettman upheld the suspension, saying “head checks are a matter of great concern to the League, our Clubs and our Players.” Bettman added that Kadri understood that he violated Rule 48 (Illegal Checks to the Head) and it was “not a close call.”
Kadri then turned to independent arbitrator Shyam Das. A short time later, Das released his decision and ultimately upheld the NHL’s ruling. The NHL and the NHLPA announced the decision in a press release on Tuesday.
NHLPA and NHL Statement on Nazem Kadri Suspension
NEW YORK/TORONTO (June 8, 2021) – The National Hockey League and the National Hockey League Players’ Association announced today that Colorado Avalanche forward Nazem Kadri’s eight-game suspension for an illegal check to the head of St. Louis Blues defenseman Justin Faulk has been upheld by Arbitrator Shyam Das.
Pursuant to this ruling, Game 6 of Colorado’s Second Round series against the Vegas Golden Knights will mark the last game of Kadri’s eight-game suspension after which he will be eligible to return.
In Das’s decision to uphold Kadri’s suspension, he cited his reduction of Tom Wilson’s 20-game suspension to 14 games in 2018. Wilson was given a 20-game ban by the NHL after an illegal check to the head of Oskar Sundqvist.
Das wrote in his decision for Kadri:
The substantial evidence standard applicable in this case, pursuant to Section 18.13 of the CBA, is more deferential than the “just cause” standard generally applicable in disciplinary cases under collective bargaining agreements. In essence, if there is a reasonable evidentiary basis for the length of the suspension imposed by the Commissioner and the League in this case it must be upheld. Moreover, as I stated in Appeal of Tom Wilson (2018):
Article 18.2 does not establish a formula for determining the amount of Supplementary Discipline to be imposed. It does list specific factors to be considered including the catchall: “Such other factors as may be appropriate in the circumstances.” It also calls for discipline to be imposed in a consistent manner.
In this case, the Commissioner addressed all the factors set forth in Section 18.2. He concluded that, even if Kadri did not intend to make head contact with Faulk (or to injure him), Kadri’s actions were reckless and involved the use of excessive and unnecessary force.
The parties agree that, while consistency in imposition of supplementary discipline is called for in Section 18.2, each case must be decided on its own facts, applying the factors set out in Section 18.2. This case, unlike Wilson, does not involve use of what I concluded was an unsupported multiplier (3x in that case), nor does the evidence show, as in Wilson, a “wide disparity” between Kadri’s 8-game suspension and the suspension(s) issued to other player(s) “under substantially comparable circumstances.” On the contrary, as the Commissioner pointed out, in circumstances not unlike those in Wilson, the 8- game suspension issued to Kadri is very similar –- taking into account that it is being served in the playoffs — to the 14-game suspension that Wilson received.
Application of progressive discipline includes consideration of significant relevant improvement in a player’s conduct, although the evidence here falls short of showing a pattern of discounting prior discipline because a player has not received supplementary discipline for some period — in Kadri’s case 124 games over 25 months. Reasonable minds might differ on aspects of the proffered comparisons to the records of other players and the alleged improvement in Kadri’s conduct asserted by the NHLPA, but the Commissioner has provided a reasonable basis for his conclusion that these did not warrant lesser discipline in this specific case.
As ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski wrote on Twitter, the Wilson argument was the “key passage” and that Das felt that the NHL “didn’t pull 8 games out of thin air, as he did in decreasing Wilson’s suspension on appeal.”
Key passage in the Kadri appeal denial: Arbitrator felt that the NHL didn’t pull 8 games out of thin air, as he did in decreasing Wilson’s suspension on appeal. pic.twitter.com/TIMoRgTrjG
— Greg Wyshynski (@wyshynski) June 8, 2021
In the footnotes, Das also made mention of Tom Wilson’s seven-game suspension that he received after boarding Brandon Carlo this season.
In reaching this determination, I have reviewed the DPS video explanations of the supplemental disciplines issued to the cited players. I also have taken into account Parros’ testimony that the most recent 7-game suspension for board checking issued to Tom Wilson in March 2021, 167 games after he had received a 14-game suspension for an illegal check to the head in September 2018, was not as clear-cut of a violation and involved a lot of factors that were very rare, and that if it had been another player without Wilson’s history the suspension would have been far less.
Das pointed out that Wilson’s past history played a factor — even though he wasn’t technically a repeat offender — in the length of the suspension and essentially took the NHL’s line that “the totality of circumstances” were part of the reason why he was banned.
In May, The Athletic reported that “Bettman didn’t like the optics and ordered a suspension” for the Capitals forward even though Wilson wasn’t given a minor penalty on the hit.
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