Columbus Blue Jackets forward Michael Peca given five-game suspension

NEW YORK – Columbus Blue Jackets forward Michael Peca was given a five-game suspension by the National Hockey League on Friday.

The suspension was finalized after an appeal hearing and review of the Oct. 10 incident by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.

Peca was assessed a game misconduct penalty at 5:21 of the second period of the Blue Jackets’ 5-4 victory over Dallas. He was automatically suspended per rule 41, physical abuse of officials, category two.

Peca, who confronted referee Greg Kimmerly and grabbed him by the arm while voicing his displeasure after a Dallas goal, claimed he grabbed the referee solely for the purpose of getting his attention, the NHL said in a release.

“I don’t feel the punishment fits the crime,” Peca told a sports website.

“For five games, guys have swung sticks at people’s heads and just missed and got five games. And here I’m trying to get the ref’s attention and I get five games. It’s very disappointing. But I have to live with it.”

Application of the rule calls for an automatic suspension of three, 10 or 20 games, based on three categories of offences. Peca’s offence initially was assessed as a category two, which requires an automatic 10-game suspension.

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After a review, the league determined that the application of category three, which requires a minimum three-game ban, was more appropriately applied because Peca’s actions were more properly categorized as “physically demeaning” conduct.

However, due to the serious nature of the conduct involved and pursuant to his authority under rule 41, Bettman increased the three-game suspension to five games.

“Michael Peca crossed the line by making physical contact with referee Kimmerly,” Bettman said in a release. “His conduct – regardless of the type or nature of precipitating events – was inexcusable and showed a lack of respect for our on-ice officials, and for the game itself.

“The National Hockey League remains committed to ensuring that officials are not subjected to any physical contact or abuse by NHL players.”

Peca has already served two games of the suspension. He will be eligible to return on Oct. 24 for the Blue Jackets’ game against the New York Rangers. Peca will forfeit US$35,349.46 in salary.