The National Hockey League's Department of Player Safety appears to be sending an early message for the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
According to a report from the Department of Player Safety the league has made the decision to issue a $2,500 fine to veteran forward Joe Thornton of the San Jose Sharks for a high stick he delivered over the week end. The move comes as somewhat of a surprise given the incident in question, one where Thornton did clearly deliver a high stick. The incident took place on Saturday night when Thornton and his San Jose Sharks were facing off against the Las Vegas Golden Knights, and to make matters worse it was clearly intentional.
The high stick from Thornton, although technically a butt end, was entirely harmless and was obviously designed to get under the skin of Las Vegas Golden Knights enforcer Ryan Reaves. The move worked, with Reaves' response to the harassment from Thornton earning the Golden Knight a big 10 minute vacation. Clearly a crafty veteran in Thornton trying to get under the skin of an opponent ahead of a big playoff series, but the NHL's Department of Player Safety was not done there.
The league has also announced an additional $2,500 fine for Ryan Reaves himself, and again this one is for a high stick delivered by Reaves. I'm sure it will come as no surprise to you to learn that the guy Reaves was fined for high stick was the aforementioned Joe Thornton. Reaves however did much more of his psychological, warfare once he stepped off the ice last night, with both he and his brother, Canadian Football League player Jordan Reaves, sharing some harsh words for Thornton following the grueling game between the two squads.
My guess here is that the NHL wants to lay the ground work for some potentially big suspensions should things get out of hand between these two men. The fact that the NHL now has disciplined each man for an infraction against the other would allow them to point to a history of behavior between these two during the playoffs, making it easier to suspend a player during the postseason.