Photo Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Will anybody be fined or suspended after the Detroit melee?

At 14:04 of the third period in last night’s game between the Calgary Flames and the Detroit Red Wings, what began as a “simple” fight between Brett Kulak and Luke Witkowski turned into a chaotic scene that involved 94 penalty minutes and eventually resulted in five players receiving game misconducts.

So what the heck happened, and will it result in any supplemental discipline from the National Hockey League’s Department of Player Safety?

Everything began with Kulak and Witkowski’s fight. It was not a close fight. Witkowski arguably kept things going longer than he needed to after Kulak was brought down to the ice. Witkowski began heading off the ice at the direction of the officials, which strongly suggests that he had been given an additional 10-minute misconduct for the fight – probably under Rule 46.5 (“Persists in continuing altercation”).

From there, things got dumb really quickly.

The Flames bench had words with Witkowski as he began heading off the ice, and Matthew Tkachuk whacked him on the back of the legs as he exited the ice surface. The whack prompted Witkowski to turn around and escalate a verbal altercation into a physical altercation. Everyone headed towards the benches – including Flames goalie Jon Gillies and Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard – and began throwing gloved punches. Micheal Ferland is visible scooting over on the bench to get involved, grabbing (and punching) Jonathan Ericsson. Travis Hamonic and Anthony Mantha fought, ending when Hamonic fell into the open gate in the Detroit bench.

Running down the boxscore

Here’s how the penalties more or less seem to have shaken out:

  • A fighting major for Kulak and a fighting major and 10-minute misconduct (for continuing the altercation, Rule 46.5) for Witkowski.
  • A spearing major and automatic game misconduct (Rule 62.5) for Tkachuk.
  • Fighting majors and game misconducts (for a secondary altercation, Rule 46.7) for Hamonic and Mantha.
  • An additional game misconduct for Mantha, presumably for the punches he threw after Hamonic fell into the bench (for continuing the altercation, Rule 46.5).
  • An additional 10-minute misconduct and a game misconduct for Witkowski for his part in the melee after he was supposed to have left the ice, likely for some combination of fighting off the playing surface or continuing the altercation (Rule 46.5).
  • Unsportsmanlike conduct penalties (for leaving the crease to join a scrum) for Gillies and Howard.

Seventy-three seconds later, Mikael Backlund got tossed from the game as well. He was given an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, most likely for using obscene language, and also received a game misconduct, likely for persisting in the activities that got him the original two-minute penalty.

Does anybody get fined or suspended?

Let me open with this general rule: the way the CBA and rulebook are written, the NHL can suspend or fine any player for anything they want as long as they feel they have sufficient justification.

The entire melee began because (a) Witkowski came back onto the ice and (b) Tkachuk poked him with his stick. Witkowski was already out of the game and came back, so (as mentioned in the above video by Elliotte Friedman) he’s in violation of Rule 70.6. It carries an automatic 10-game suspension. They’ll appeal and argue that Tkachuk provoked him, which probably won’t fly.

Tkachuk probably gets a fine of some sort for his part in setting things off, though. Ferland and Andreas Athanasiou likely also don’t escape unscathed, as they’re all over the footage. Ferland had to be restrained by one of the linesmen. They probably both get fined.

Was Tkachuk’s poke a spear? Probably not. But like Backlund’s game misconduct, it was likely a “Dang it, we’ve gotta give this punk-ass something for setting things off” call by the referees.

Everybody that gets misconducts and game misconducts get automatic small fines under the NHL’s rules, but I’d expect a suspension for Witkowski and fines for Tkachuk, Ferland and Athanasiou. I’d be surprised if Tkachuk gets a suspension, but then again he does already have a history with Player Safety and they may want to send him a message.

  • Longshot1977

    I couldn’t believe what I was seeing from Witkowski.
    1. Goes after Kulak. This is a goon going after a rookie non-goon. It’s cheesy and cowardly.
    2. After getting Kulak down, tries to slam him against the ice again. This is a super dangerous play that could result in concussion if the head hits the ice.
    3. Tries to challenge Hamonic to a fight immediately following. Almost falls on his ass in the attempt.
    4. Comes back onto the ice after being ejected!
    I’d call ” ‘roid rage”, but we all know there are no PED’s in the NHL, am-i-right?

    • OYYC

      If, and when, that meathead is back in the minors then Feb 10th is a day to watch. The Heat play Grand Rapids on the road. Luke Gazdic will be wanting a “quiet” word.

      • Crazy Flames

        Lots of concussions aren’t caused from contact to the head. It is the jarring of the body shaking the brain. I.e. Hard body contact by slamming or being slammed into something. Pretty classless of Witkowski for not stopping as soon as Kulak went down and because of Tkachuk he will get what is due to him.

        It is obvious Witkowski will get at minimum 10 games here (rule book). Other then that I agree with Pike in Tkachuk, Ferland, and Athanasiou get fines.

        • OYYC

          Mantha has to get suspended as well. Continuing to hit a guy when he’s on his back is way over the line. If that had happened at centre ice the linesmen would have been all over it before it happened. The fact that it happened in the Detroit bench makes it 10 times worse, because the linesman couldn’t peel him off.

          But good on Hamonic in general. Apart from having a crap game, after he got peeled out of the scrum by 3 Wings players, he got up firing. He saw the first person in a red shirt, and started chucking. I don’t think he would have cared if it was Probert or Kocur he was fighting with. You need a guy like Hamonic on your team. Mantha is a big guy, he’s listed at 6’5. Hamonic didn’t care about such trivial matters at the time.

        • cberg

          That’s what SHOULD happen but I’m not convinced of the integrity of the refs after witnessing the clear ref vendetta post-Wideman, and we’ll have to see what the league does. It still seems there is a bias, and I would like to see either a team, fan or independent site challenge the crappy refereeing by cataloguing bad/unmade calls and forcing the league to improve the reffing consistency.

    • Cfan in Van

      I turned it off after I saw the 5:00 Det PP. Couldn’t believe it… Not that the game was fun up to that point, but that was just unreal. I thought all the goonery from Witkowski, it would be a 5:00PP for the Flames. What a horrible display.

  • OYYC

    Glen Gulutzan: “That’s not our game though, it’s about time we got some emotion in our game.”

    That’s the soundbite, and he did try and walk it back later in the after game interview about he’s not questioning the team’s emotion, but not being ready to play. That quote could become Gulutzan’s undoing.

    If I’m a player, I’m thinking: “Go fiddle yourself, coach.” It is farcical. Monty Python couldn’t have written a funnier script. Here’s a guy behind the bench that shows ZERO emotion, and he’s questioning his players for standing up for each other? You may have lost the room for good after that zinger, Glen.

      • OYYC

        I’m thinking a couple of beers on a train might not get it done this time. Gulutzan’s insistence of not going into the room after a game is pretty stupid in general, especially stupid after the situation that just happened. All of the player’s are going to be wondering what their coach thought of the situation.

        Gulutzan deadpans that he isn’t happy with the team’s emotion level, and implies he hasn’t been happy for some time. He couldn’t have come up with much of a worse statement there if he had tried.

    • flames2015

      Exactly oyyc. I had mentioned earlier in the season that GG has displayed zero emotion during the games. This game above all proves that. Hell, as fans we got riled up over last night.

  • OYYC

    Trying to look at that brawl objectively is a bit difficult. Should Tkachuk have given Witkowski a tap on the leg as he was leaving the ice? No. But there is no way it should have ramped up so fast after that. Meathead on the Wings couldn’t help himself.

    He couldn’t show enough restraint to just continue barking from the tunnel. Maybe Witkowski doesn’t know he would get suspended, maybe he doesn’t care. But that was a pretty big over-reaction from a minor whack on the leg from Byng.

  • Carl the tooth

    Definitely some cowardly players in Detroit jerseys. Tkachuk was likely trying to hold back as much as he could . Big tough guy goes after kulak but not man enough to fight Ferlund.
    Then you got Hamonic being held by some coward on the bench . That witowski will never put on another NHL jersey verses Flames again unless he wants to get lynched next time. .

  • deantheraven

    I have to take issue with your, description, Ryan. I watched it on NHL.com and again here, several times to try and guess what the supplementary discipline will amount to. First, Witkowski almost knocked Kulak out and then continued his assault after Kulak was unable to defend himself (ARGUABLY kept things going?). Then he challenged Hamonic. Second, he was off the ice when Tkachuk gave him a one-handed tap (not a whack) on the skate. Witkowski returning= 10 games. Lastly, Hamonic fought Mantha along the boards at the Detroit bench, got grabbed by Nicetoseeyou, then fell through the open Wings’ gate. Mantha then proceeded to hammer Hammer when he was defenseless. To be honest, I was a bit torn. I want to see Witkowski and Mantha get spanked for being asses. That kind of thing has no place in the game, in sport, period. But I’m also admiring the Wings’ fire a little bit. They seemed like they were prepared to run up the score and run the Flames out of the rink after getting it handed to them on their last visit to the ‘Dome. No quit, high grit. Whereas the Flames looked like they couldn’t put two passes together after they were down by 2.

  • McRaj

    Wow what a biased column. I agree Witkowski should get 10 but no suspension for Tkachuk and Ferland? Tkachuk is an instigator and clearly did so on that play with Witkowski and then proceeded to instigate other Red Wing players, including attacking Howard. Ferland was throwing fists from the bench. At least Ferland fights, Tkachuk is just a dirty scumbag, the new age pest who gets under the skin but is too afraid to back it up consistently.

  • Flames fan since 83

    Is NOT removing your goalie gloves a penalty when the goalie actively gets involved with an altercation? Detroits goalie, Howard gets really aggressive in the scrum with both his glove and blocker still on.

    Albeit, Howard did not badly use his equipment, to me, it was equal to Tkachuk’s tap/spear!

  • Derzie

    When a player leaves his feet, the fight’s over. There were 2 instances of punches thrown after a player was down. Definition of dirty. Tapping the skates of one of those dirty players is decidedly NOT dirty. The jealous haters of Byng need to get their priorities straight.
    If Wit doesn’t get 10, the league is a joke. Crystal clear rule “back on the ice for ANY reason” = automatic 10 games.

    • SilkyMitts

      Well I agree with you on the dirty fight and the 10 games for coming back to the ice I disagree on your tapping the skates comment about Tkachuk there are a few things you didn’t see or completely ignored
      Fact 1 Tkachuk did intentionaly slash a player that was no longer on the ice as he was leaving the game that alone should be a suspension
      Fact 2 Tkachuk did throw 2 spears at a player about 5 seconds after witkowski comes back on the ice another suspension
      Fact 3 Hamonic starts the fight and starts throwing punches well Mantha still has his gloves on (very greacy but still should not have but still no reason for ground and pound) another suspension
      Fact 4 Ferland is throwing punches from the box BOOM suspension
      I think there will lots of games all around

      • SilkyMitts

        The extra shove on Kulak when he was down is not continuing to punch and I dont think it was malicious
        It did how ever instigate everything similar to snowing the goalie no harm but it’s disrespectful the Hamonic one was definitely over board and unacceptable but Hamonic dropped his gloves and started throwing punches before the other guy had any idea what was going on again I’m not defending anyone’s actions but that is how things happened

  • Off the wall

    I think Hamonic really nailed it in his interview after the game.
    There’s a “code” in hockey that was grossly ignored.

    It was apparent that Kulak was merely trying to defend himself after Witkowski grabbed him. You could tell Kulak didn’t want to fight.

    Dumbkowski continued to hit him even though he obviously almost knocked Kulak out with the first punch. I give Hamonic full credit for taking exception to this.

    The game was already over as far as the score was concerned.
    Why the need for this?
    Is this retaliation for Brouwer fight, hardly both players respected the code of the fight.
    It’s unfortunate that Abdelkader had to wear a face mask this game, but you could tell after the fight both players were respectful of the altercation.

    This is a goon who has no business being in the league.

    With all that happening between the benches, Hamonic gets jumped and none of the Flames players are taking note?
    Shouldn’t we be looking after one another better? I get that a lot was going on, but take a sweater, hang on to it. There’s no way Hamonic should have been alone there. With 3 guys on him initially.

    GG is ready for his exit. Right Treliving?
    He’s lost, uninspiring and now chooses to call out his players.

    We are worried about which goalie is between the pipes on Saturday, I’m more concerned that we have a coach that needs a pink slip!

    • Anonymoustrollpolice

      What Hamonic doesn’t mention is he was the one who kept punching Mantha in the skull as they laid there. Watch the replay. Hamonic was just upset that he was -5 and got his ass kicked on top of it. Speaking of goons you hypocrite…. what is glass and gazdic? your team went out and signed 2 goons.

        • Anonymoustrollpolice

          Hey Aladdin Looch is on pace for 60 points. Nice try, maybe next time.
          Maybe Chiarelli should have emptied the cupboards for Hamonic…. you know since Hamonics 2 points and -5 on the year are soooooooooo worth it. When it turns into a lottery pick the conversation in cowtown will be about which was worse. Selling the farm for a 5-6 dman or that O’reilly debacle that almost put Calgary on the global map for the most embarrassing move in professional sports lol should have fired the whole front office for that one.

          • FlamesFanOtherCity

            On pace…Bwahahaha. A guy gets 1 goal in the first game is on pace to score 82 goals.
            Since you bring up history, Reinhart for what picks? Strome for who? Oh right, you don’t have Reinhart for those picks.

          • The Sultan

            Well at least the Flames went out and signed a defenseman in the off season. What did Chia do to replace Sekera? Move Russell up to the first pairing? Lmao

  • ponokanocker

    Witkowski will get a suspension for sure, possibly the 10 games as has been pointed out. I’m wondering what they do about Tkachuk hitting a player that is not on the ice? Does anyone know the rules for that, or if there is one?

  • Burnward

    What an embarrassing night to be a Flames fan.
    Team craps the bed then gets that crap kicked out of them.

    Gulutzan then decides to be wholier-than-thou and absolutely misses the point. What a clown.


    All my good thoughts from the last week are gone. We’re headed for some big trouble.

  • Alberta Ice

    “TV” Drama continues. Elliot vs who knows in Philly on Saturday? Ah, the twists and turns of the continuing soap opera known as NHL hockey. The last two games in Calgary were fun; the game last night like something off of Elm Street. (What ghosts were tripping players all night?) And how about the refs versus the world in “The People’s Court” of twitter opinion? Script writers can’t even come up with this kind of stuff. Now the wait for the results of the NHL’s version of “Survivor”. Stay tuned.

  • SilkyMitts

    Thoughts on the fight everything about that may from both teams was dirty AF I’m sure witkowski gets 10 for coming back in the ice
    I like Tkachuk but what a greacy little prick he can fight anyone on the ice but goes after Zetterberg and Howard plus the 2 spears and and slash when witkowski is off the ice im not sure what the suspension for swinging your stick at players in the bench is but it should be good I’ll say he gets 5 games

  • RKD

    Wit for sure should get 10, smart by Versteeg to hold Monahan back or he would get an automatic 10. To say Chucky speared anyone is ridiculous that would not even qualify as a love tap. Half the fans think Ferly should have fought Wit when it was 2-0 Detroit and Wit was a big crybaby when Kulak hit booth. The reality is Wit couldn’t control himself after Chucky tapped him. Wit incited the brawl, not Calgary.

  • BringtheFire 2.0

    Hmmm…well, with Chucky’s history and previous suspension, if he gets a game I wouldn’t be utterly shocked. As for the rest…the Wings were sore from the beat-down we gave them and they acted like it. We had to stick up for our guys and they had to stick up for theirs.

    I just think the Wings were a little over aggressive and started the situation, but the escalation…well, that just happens, sometimes. That’s on everyone.

  • Intercourse the Penguins

    If this was the bad old days Gazdic and Witless would have fought in 1st period and things would have calmed down over the 6-3 loss and Abdicator’s cheek bone. Flames would still have lost a game an Gaz and Witty would be closer to brain damage but it might have ended there.

  • Flaymin Frank

    People people people. Relax. I’m only mad about the fact that these two teams don’t get to see each other this year. That’s it. They are finished for their seasonal matchups. Unless its the playoffs. Detroit hasn’t been this kind of nasty since the running bash battles of Chris Draper & Claude Lemieux back in the 90’s. And that was real nasty business.

    For the snowflakes up north – you make me laugh. I seem to remember Princess Dry Saddle re-arranging a Shark’s tostados last year in a cowardly spearing incident. And no suspension. I spose the league didn’t want to pee on the Pretenders’ to the Throne parade. Those McLotto fans seem to have short memories.

  • Intercourse the Penguins

    I believe Tchucky will get 2 games for contacting a player who was off the ice. Ferly will get 5 for fighting from the bench. Silver lining from the sow’s ear?: call-ups. Mangia and Hathaway?