NHL fines Rangers $250K for criticizing player safety call

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Washington Capitals and New York Rangers fight in the opening seconds of an NHL hockey game Wednesday, May 5, 2021, in New York. (Bruce Bennett/Pool Photo via AP)

The New York Rangers in less than 72 hours lost their best player to injury, fired their president and general manager, and had another player suspended. They are also out a quarter-million dollars in the aftermath of the storied franchise's latest chaotic chapter.

The NHL fined the Rangers an extraordinary $250,000 on Thursday for what Commissioner Gary Bettman called demeaning personal comments made publicly about head of player safety George Parros. It’s believed to be the largest publicly announced fine of its kind in NHL history.

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“While we don’t expect our clubs to agree with every decision rendered by the department of player safety, the extent to which the Rangers expressed their disagreement was unacceptable,” Bettman said. “It is terribly unfair to question George Parros’ professionalism and dedication to his role and the department of player safety.”

The uproar dates to Monday, when Washington’s Tom Wilson was involved in a scrum against the Rangers that left New York star Artemi Panarin injured and unable to finish the final three games of the season. Wilson was fined $5,000 for roughing against Pavel Buchnevich but not suspended, prompting the Rangers to issue a statement calling the decision a dereliction of duty and saying Parros was unfit to remain in his job.

“The New York Rangers are extremely disappointed that Capitals forward Tom Wilson was not suspended for his horrifying act of violence,” the team's statement said. “Wilson is a repeat offender with a long history of these type of acts and we find it shocking that the NHL and their Department of Player Safety failed to take the appropriate action and suspend him indefinitely.”

No such suspension materialized, and Wilson was back on the ice with the Capitals against the Rangers on Wednesday night. The teams racked up a combined 141 penalty minutes in a fight-filled game, and their six fights were the most in league history in the opening five minutes.

Buchnevich was thrown out for cross-checking Capitals forward Anthony Mantha in the second period and was suspended after a hearing for Thursday night's game in Boston. Buchnevich will forfeit just over $28,000 as part of the suspension.

The Rangers have bigger issues to address: Owner James Dolan abruptly fired team president John Davidson and general manager Jeff Gorton on Wednesday and turned those jobs over to former assistant Chris Drury, who inherits a rebuilding project with no clarity for when New York should be a legitimate playoff or Stanley Cup contender again.

“I don’t know if there’s a set timeline where I’m going to say, or anyone can say, the rebuild’s over," Drury said. “I don’t think we’re doing anything too drastic. I think time will tell, and I think people will be excited with the steps we take and the moves we make to keep moving this organization and this team along in the right direction.”

Longtime hockey executive Glen Sather, a senior adviser to Dolan, is back to assist Drury in the transition. Sather said the team's statement about Parros had “absolutely nothing” to do with Dolan's decision to dump Davidson and Gorton.

Will coach David Quinn be next out the door? That could be among the changes Drury contemplates in the coming days and weeks while he attempts to pick up the pieces after a tumultuous season that included kicking defenseman Tony DeAngelo off the team; coaches missing time with COVID-19; Panarin taking a leave of absence after a Russian tabloid printed allegations of abuse from a decade ago; and this week's dramatic developments.

“We’re going to look everything and try to figure out how best to take the next step forward,” Drury said. “It’s been well-documented everything the team has gone through on and off the ice, and we’re going to take a look at every aspect of the organization when things end and we’ll start that process next week.”


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