NHL’s All-Time Longest Suspensions

With news that Ottawa Senators player Shane Pinto (who currently does not have an actual NHL contract at the time of this writing) was suspended 41 games for violating the National Hockey league’s gambling rules.  (More from Elliotte Friedman on the Pinto Suspension). It made us wonder what the NHL’s harshest suspensions of all-time were.  Of course there have been some obvious ones over the years but we wanted to examine the leagues longest suspensions of all-time.

The Shane Pinto suspension is interesting for a number of reasons. Pinto who was drafted 32nd overall by the Senators and the first pick in the second round of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft was suspended on October 26, 2023 for violating the NHL’s gambling rules.  Some interesting side notes to the suspension:

  • Pinto was not accused of wagering on NHL games
  • Pinto’s suspension was a result of what is being reported as “proxy betting,” where another individual or individuals have access to a legal account in his name.
  • The NHLPA negotiated Pinto’s suspension/penalty with the NHL

Pretty interesting for sure… and not your typical NHL suspension for an illegal on-ice play, high stick, elbow, head shot, intent to injure et al. Typically the NHL’s Department of Player Safety will hand out suspensions but depending on the severity 9and type) of issue commissioner Gary Bettman may also hand out suspensions. In the case of the Shane Pinto suspension the NHL sent a memo that stated:

Commissioner Gary Bettman is authorized to “discipline individuals determined to have engaged in improper gambling activities in any or all of the following respects:” expulsion or suspension a definite or indefinite period; cancelling any contract that such individual may have; and/or by imposing a fine. “The League will act swiftly and aggressively in penalizing any League or Club personnel determined to have engaged in acts in violation of the NHL Gambling Policy.”

With that, let’s take a look at 25 of the longest NHL suspensions of all-time.

Caveat: The purpose of this post is not to glorify violence or rule infraction of the NHL game, but to provide a list of the longest suspensions in the history of the National Hockey League.

NHL’s All-Time Longest Suspensions

Starting from reverse order, here are the longest NHL suspensions ever handed out by the league.

Notable suspension: John Chayka Arizona Coyotes General Manager – July 26, 2020. Suspended 341 days for conduct detrimental to the league.

Thee is actually a number 26 on our list as Tony Granato of the Los Angeles Kings was issued a 15 game suspension for slashing Neil Wikinson of the Pittsburgh Penguins during a game in February 1994.

25. Wilf Paiement – Colorado Rockies (October 1978)

Offense: Intent to injure (slashing).  Paiement received one of the longest suspensions ever handed out at the time, 15 games, for a vicious slash to the face of Detroit Red Wings player Denis Polonich. Polonich suffered various facial lacerations a broken nose and a concussion.  He was reported to have suffered breathing issues after the injury.  Polonich ended up suing Paiement and was rewarded a settlement of $850,000 as a result of the incident.

Length: 15 games.

24. Maurice Richard – Montreal Canadiens (March 1955)

Offense: Abuse of an official. Richard knocked down linesman Cliff Thompson during an altercation with Boston Bruins player Hal Laycoe.

Length: 15 games

23. Dave Brown – Philadelphia Flyers (November 1987)

Offense: Intent to injure (cross-checking).  In a November 1987 games vs. the New York Rangers Flyers tough guy cross checked Rangers forward Tomas Sandstrom right in the face breaking Sandstrom’s jaw in the process.

Length: 15 games

22 Matt Cooke – Montreal Canadiens (March 2011)

Offense: Intent to injure (elbowing). In a game in March of 2011, Matt Cooke of the Pittsburgh Penguins was suspended for the remainder of the season for an elbow to the head of Rangers player Ryan McDonagh. The suspension included the remaining ten games of the regular season as well as six playoff games.

Length: 16 games

21. Eddie Shore – Boston Bruins (December 12, 1933)

Offense: Intent to Injure. In a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins legend and notable rough and tough player, Eddie Shore was suspended 16 games for hitting Maple Leaf’s player Ace Bailey over the head with his hockey stick. The incident ended gamesthe career of Bailey.

Length: 16 games

20. Brad May – Phoenix Coyotes (November 2000)

Offense: Stick Infraction (baseball swing to the head).  Using a baseball-like swing, May contacted Steve Heinze in the face that cut Heinze for nine stitches in a game against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Length: 20 games

19. Tom Lysiak – Chicago Blackhawks (October 1983)

Offense: Abuse of an official. Lysiak had been tossed out of the faceoff circle a number of times and finally had enough. Lysiak waited for the puck to be dropped, before he jabbed his stick in behind linesman Ron Foyt’s knee causing the linesman to fall to the ice.

Length: 20 games

18. Steve Downie – Philadelphia Flyers (September 2007)

Offense: Intent to Injure.Downie delivered one of the most dangerous hits to the head of Ottawa Senator Dean McAmmond. Downie received a 20-game suspension from the NHL for leaving his feet to deliver a deliberate and dangerous hit to the head of the Ottawa forward.

Editor’s Note: As a personal friend of Dean McAmmond, the hit was one of the worst we’ve ever seen and with McAmmond being stretchered off of the ice this was a hit that has no business being in the game of hockey. Downie received one of the longest punishments at the time for the hit.

Length: 20 games

17. Dale Hunter – Washington Capitals (May 1993)

Offense: Illegal hit after the whistle. During the 1993 playoffs Hunter hit (and punched) New York Islanders forward Pierre Turgeon after Turgeon had scored a goal for the Islanders. Turgeon suffered a separated shoulder on the hit from Hunter.

Length: 21 games.

16. Marty McSorley – Boston Bruins (February 2000)

Offense: Stick swinging incident resulting in contact to Vancouver Canucks enforcer Donald Brashear. McSorleylater received an indefinite suspension from the NHL and he was charged with assault with a weapon as a result of his actions.

Length: 23 games. Originally set for a one year suspension, McSorley never played another game in the NHL after the incident.

15. Gord Dwyer – Tampa Bay Lightning (September 2007)

Offense: Altercation with on-ice officials during an NHL pre-season game. During a fight with Washington Capitals players Joe Murphy and Joe Reekie, Dwyer delivered physical force to linesman David Brisebois.

Length: 23 games

14. Jesse Boulerice – Philadelphia Flyers (October 2007)

Offense: Cross check to the face of Vancouver Canucks forward Ryan Kesler.

Length: 25 games

13. Chris Simon – New York Islanders (March 11, 2007)

Offense: Attempt to injure as a result of stick swinging incident. Simon took a two-handed baseball swing to the face of New York Rangers Ryan Hollweg. Simon received a match penalty for attempt to injure, during the game on March 8th.

Length: 25 games

12. Raffi Torres – Phoenix Coyotes (April 15, 2012)

Offense: Illegal hit to the head of Chicago Blackhawks player Marian Hossa

Length: 25 games (reduced to 23)

11. Nate Schmidt – Vegas Golden Knights (September 2, 2018)

Offense: Violating the terms of the NHL/NHLPA Performance Enhancing Substances Program

Length: 27 games (seven preseason and twenty regular season games).  The player forfeited $466,532.26 in salary as a result of the suspension.

Ten Longest Suspensions in NHL History

10. Jarred Tinordi – Arizona Coyotes (March 9, 2016)

Offense: Violating the terms of the NHL/NHLPA Performance Enhancing Substances Program

Length: 28 games (8 preseason games and 20 regular season games.

9. Chris Simon – New York Islanders (December 15, 2007)

Offense: The suspension, was given to Chris Simon of the New York Islanders after he stepped on/stomped on Jarkko Ruutu’s leg of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Simon was given a match penalty and supplemental discipline of a suspension. Chris Simon was suspended no less than eight times in his NHL career.

Length: 30 games

8. Auston Watson – Nashville Predators (September 12, 2018)

Offense: Unacceptable off-ice conduct (arrested for domestic assault).

Length: 33 games (6 preseason games and 27 regular season games.). Watson ended up serving a total of 24 games (6 preseason and 18 regular season games).

7. Todd Bertuzzi – Vancouver Canucks (February 26, 2004)

Offense: Punching Colorado Avalanche Steve Moore from behind and driving his head into the ice resulting in a broken neck of Moore. The event is considered one of the worst to ever take place in the NHL

Length:  Initial suspension was indefinitely.  Bertuzzi ended being suspended for33 games including (20 regular season games and 13 playoff games)

6. Shane Pinto – former Ottawa Senator October 26, 2023.

Offense: Violating league gambling rules.

Length: 41 games. A half season suspension.

5. Raffi Torres – San Jose Sharks (October 3, 2015)

Offense: Illegal check to the head of Anaheim Ducks player Jakob Silfverberg.

Length: 41 games. The player forfeited $440,860.29 in salary. The half-season penalty was a result of Torres’ previous infractions as he had previously received supplemental discipline a staggering nine times, including a 21-game ban for a headshot on the Chicago Blackhawks’ Marian Hossa in 2012.

4. Grant Fuhr – Edmonton Oilers (September 27, 1990)

Offense: Violating the terms of the NHL/NHLPA Substances Program

Length: 59 games. Fuhr was reinstated after serving five months of his ban for illegal drug use.  He returned to the Oilers on February 18, 1991 and earned a shutout making 27 saves in a 4-0 Oilers victory over the New Jersey Devils.

3.  Slava Voynov – Los Angeles Kings (October 19, 2014)

Offense: Unacceptable off-ice conduct (arrested on misdemeanor domestic assault charges against his wife).  The Kings later terminated his contract in 2015. The NHL extended his suspension indefinitely for the 2019-20 season and has not reinstated him.

Length: Indefinite Suspension. Initially consisted of the entire season plus playoffs for a total of 82 games, plus playoffs, but Voynov has never played in the league again.

2. Bill Taylor, Babe Pratt and Don Gallinger – Boston Bruins (1948)

Offense: The three players were found guilty of betting on their own team.  Seventy five years before the Shane Pinto suspension, these three fellows were suspended for gambling offense where they actually did bet on their own team. Pratt’s suspension was lifted after nine games based on his confession, but the other two remained suspended until the suspension was lifted 22 years later in 1970.

Length: Lifetime ban.

1. Billy Coutu – Boston Bruins (Spring of 1927)

Offense: Assault of two referees and inciting a bench clearing brawl in the game four of the Stanley Cup finals vs. the Ottawa Senators in 1927.

Length: Lifetime ban. The ban was subsequently lifted in 1929-30 and Coutu was reinstated in 1932-33 but after the suspension, he never played in the NHL again.

Here are some additional resources pertaining the NHL rules and guidelines:

NHL Rulebook

NHL Historical Rule Changes

NHL.com: Hockey Operations Guidelines

NHL Department of Player Safety FAQs

Wikipedia: Historical Violence in Hockey