Today the NHL fined the Maple Leafs for a violation of the CBA relating to the travel rules after the Christmas break. This is not the first time the league has cracked down on teams requiring players to appear for travel or for practices before December 27.
The CBA reads:
(b) December 24, Christmas Day, and December 26 shall be off-days for all purposes, including travel, and no Club may request a Player’s consent to practice on such days for any reason, provided, however, if December 26 falls on a Saturday and the League has scheduled NHL Games on such date, December 23 may be substituted as an off-day for all purposes, including travel, instead of December 26.
From the Tweets discussing the details of this event, the story seems to be that the Leafs left Toronto before midnight on December 26, which is a clear violation of this rule. There’s no way to argue that it isn’t, and while the schedule makes travel on December 27th annoying, it has been this way since at least 2013.
This is the violation. The team argued that, because STL is a 90-minute/two-hour flight, it would be better to go at night and get in then (as players are accustomed to), rather than go at 5 am. I’ve asked a couple of sources if players agreed, and preliminary replies are yes…— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) December 28, 2022
Clearly, the team can argue that to whoever will listen, and it’s not going to matter. “But we’d rather” costs you $100,000 and they can’t possibly begrudge that amount of money.
It’s interesting to note that the plane for the broadcast crew was cancelled, and they called the game from Toronto. Many fans were also stranded in Toronto, unable to use the tickets they’d bought. Private planes don’t get cancelled, so there was absolutely no reason not to leave later.
The second fine is one many people will think is bad:
There were two incidents in the game on Tuesday where Keefe acted out a pantomime of great upset at referee Wes McCauley. The first was a long and involved routine where he made the referee sign for interference repeatedly in a bid to emphasize that he believed there was some interference on the the play where the Leafs were scored against. It wasn’t immediately clear if he meant goalie interference — there clearly was none — or interference to the goalie prior to the scoring chance, or something else.
Most people came to believe he thought there should have been a penalty on this play:
Jordie Benn was interfered with ahead of the goal— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) December 28, 2022
no call pic.twitter.com/phHI0HYmQQ
Unfortunately, “you should have called that penalty, and if you had, that goal wouldn’t have happened,” is how fans talk about a game, not how you adjudicate refereeing. So this act:
Keefe: Wake the f--k up Wes! pic.twitter.com/r76XoQJKiz— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) December 28, 2022
... was going to get a fine.
The second bit of business was on such an egregious missed call by the refs, where Zach Aston-Reese was spitting blood (for dramatic effect) on the bench after taking a stick to the face that would have given the Leafs a power play for the entire final three minutes of the game, and part of overtime.
By that point, Keefe was keeping it to red-faced yelling, which you get away with.
Look, I know everyone gets really angry when the refs miss a call that happens in proximity to a goal against. I know sports fans love to develop persecution complexes, mostly because they ignore everything that happens to other teams. But you can’t really go as far as Keefe went in mocking the ref, expressing that level of outrage, swearing, and on and on and be surprised when you’re writing a cheque the next day.
The ref is a person. And every ref will make mistakes. And no one deserves that for a mistake, blown up out of proportion and made out like it was the crime of the century in a nothing game two days after Christmas. Particularly when the only possible outcome was some kind of overblown emotional reaction from the Leafs players or McCauley himself.
People react emotionally. Like the New Jersey fans throwing things. Like other coaches losing their shit. You can expect it, and you can plan for it. Don’t sell beer in cans in arenas, and have a fine system for coaches who abuse the employees of the NHL.