NHL commissioner Gary Bettman will hear the appeal. His determination will be the final step in the appeals process. Since the suspension is less than six games and did not involve an in-person hearing with the NHL Department of Player Safety, McAvoy is ineligible to appeal Bettman’s decision to a neutral arbitrator.
Bettman could uphold the current suspension, reduce it or increase it.
In Monday’s overtime win over Florida, McAvoy received a match penalty at 9 minutes, 24 seconds of the third period for delivering a check that made Ekman-Larsson’s head the main point of contact.
One day later, the NHL announced that McAvoy had been suspended four games, saying that the contact was avoidable. “McAvoy chooses an angle of approach that cuts across Ekman-Larsson’s body, missing his core and picking his head,” the NHL said in a video explaining the suspension.
Traditionally, the Department of Player Safety hands out a minimum of two games for an illegal check to the head, as it did recently to Buffalo Sabres defenseman Connor Clifton. The additional games to McAvoy were likely based on the lateness of the hit as well as his previous suspension history, having been banned for one playoff game in 2019 for an illegal check to the head of Columbus Blue Jackets forward Josh Anderson.
This marks the second time the NHLPA has appealed a suspension to Bettman this season. Calgary Flames defenseman Rasmus Andersson appealed his four-game ban for a hit to the head of Blue Jackets forward Patrik Laine, ostensibly to become eligible to play in Calgary’s Heritage Classic outdoor game against the Edmonton Oilers last Sunday. Bettman upheld that suspension.