We’ve gone through Article 18, which governs discipline for on-ice conduct. But the CBA also includes a passage giving the league a mechanism to discipline off-ice infractions as well.

Let’s check out Article 18-A: Commissioner Discipline for Off-Ice Conduct.

What it is

Section 18-A.2 broadly defines the goals and guidelines for off-ice discipline:

Whenever the Commissioner determines that a Player has violated a League Rule applicable to Players (other than Playing Rules subjecting the Player to potential Supplementary Discipline for On-Ice Conduct), or has been or is guilty of conduct (whether during or outside the playing season) that is detrimental to or against the welfare of the League or the game of hockey, he may discipline such Player in any or all of the following respects:

(a) by expelling or suspending such Player for a definite or indefinite period;
(b) by cancelling any SPC that such Player has with any Member Club; or
(c) by imposing a fine on the Player not exceeding the maximum permissible fine under Section 18.7(b).

Both here and throughout the rest of Article 18-A, the Commissioner’s rights are fairly broadly defined and subject to some interpretation – seemingly on purpose, to provide room for the league to operate depending on the needs of the situation.

How it works

The process is primarily sketched out in Section 18-A.3. Basically, the league notifies the NHLPA when it begins investigating any off-ice player conduct. No player interviews (of players subject to potential discipline or not) can occur without first notifying NHLPA (to give them opportunity to participate). Advance notice for non-player interviews is also to be given to the NHLPA for the same purpose.

If after the initial interviews there seems to be something to the investigation, there will be a hearing (with no less than five days notice unless there is a “compelling need” for a more urgent hearing). Except in situations where a criminal investigation is involved, the Commissioner cannot suspend a player for off-ice conduct without a hearing. Section 18-A.3(d) continues:

In cases involving an expedited hearing, the Commissioner may suspend a Player pending a hearing for a period not exceeding four (4) days if the failure to do so would create a substantial risk of material harm for the legitimate interests and/or reputation of the League.

(This right isn’t invoked often, but it was prominently invoked by the league during the Slava Voynov proceedings.)

Before the hearing, the league will disclose the evidence and witnesses they will discuss to the NHLPA (and visa versa). Following the hearing, the Commissioner will give his verdict. An appeal mechanism is available, to the Impartial Arbitrator (a labour mechanism laid out in Article 17) rather than the Neutral Discipline Arbitrator), but the degree of scrutiny is functionally the same – the Arbitrator is to examine the rationale behind the suspension to ensure it was logically connected to the evidence.

CBA School | Article 1 (Definitions) | Article 8 (Entry Draft) | Article 9 (Entry Level Compensation) | Article 10 (Free Agency) | Article 11 (Rules Governing Standard Player’s Contract) | Article 12 (Salary Arbitration) | Article 13 (Waivers and Loan of Players to Minor League Clubs) | Article 15 (Training Camp) | Article 16 (League Schedule, Playing Roster, Reserve Lists, Practice Sessions) | Article 18 (Supplemental Discipline for On-Ice Conduct)