NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has upheld the 10-game suspension of Sabres forward Patrick Kaleta, the league announced Thursday.
The NHL Department of Player Safety suspended Kaleta on Oct. 15 for an illegal check to the head of Blue Jackets defenseman Jack Johnson on Oct. 9.
Kaleta opted to appeal the suspension, which included a hearing with Bettman. The hearing, which reportedly lasted more than three hours on Monday, resulted in Bettman upholding the original 10-game suspension.
The Collective Bargaining Agreement allows Kaleta and the NHLPA to take their appeal to an independent arbitrator within seven days.
The NHL considers Kaleta a repeat offender under the terms of the CBA. The suspension will cost him $152,439.00 based on his salary, with the funds going to the Players' Emergency Assistance Fund.
Kaleta's defense included testimony from Buffalo general manager Darcy Regier that the hit was not a violation of Rule 48 because Kaleta could not have avoided contact with Johnson's head, and that Johnson changed his body position at the last moment. The NHLPA also argued that the length of the suspension was excessive and weighed too heavily on Kaleta's past violations.
Bettman ruled that Johnson did not put himself in a vulnerable position and that Kaleta made no attempt to hit Johnson squarely in the body.
Bettman didn't pull any punches when it came to tying Kaleta to his history as an offender, having been suspended three times and fined another three times in the past four years.
Here's an excerpt from Bettman's statement released by the NHL:
“Regrettably, Mr. Kaleta stands out for his repeated violations of — and seeming indifference to — the Playing Rules put in place to protect other Players and, particularly, other Players’ heads.”
“Specifically, Mr. Kaleta has committed a series of other serious head-related Playing Rule violations in each of the four most recent prior seasons. “This is a remarkable record . . . for a Player . . . who has demonstrated a total disregard for the safety of other Players and, in particular, their heads. It’s not only the frequency of his prior offenses, but, even more so, the fact that all of the offenses involved contact with or injury to an opponent’s head that leads inexorably to the conclusion that Mr. Kaleta has not responded adequately to the progressive discipline that has been meted out to his thus far.”