NHL fines Canucks $50k for ‘inappropriate public comments’ violating tampering By-Law

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Photo Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig/USA TODAY Sports

As expected, the Vancouver Canucks have been levied an enormous $50,000 fine by the NHL for violating the league’s tampering By-Laws, the league announced on Tuesday.

The fine has been levied as a result of comments Canucks general manager Jim Benning made this past Thursday in Buffalo, in which he expressed his interest – during an appearance with Matt Sekeres and Blake Price on TSN 1040 – in Tampa Bay Lightning centre Steven Stamkos, a pending unrestricted free agent, and Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban.

The amount is double what then-Toronto Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson was fined for tampering back in 2009, when he made significantly more suggestive and pointed comments indicating that his club was interested in pursuing the Sedin twins. You’d think that perhaps the league just doubled the Wilson fine because Benning mentioned two players, but then, that doesn’t make sense, because Henrik and Daniel Sedin are two distinct individuals also, even if we often group them together for obvious reasons…

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In a release, the NHL’s Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly explained the rationale behind the fine.

“Canucks General Manager Jim Benning violated the provisions of NHL By-Law 15 relating to inappropriate public comments by speaking generally to his Club’s potential interest in players under contract to other NHL Clubs,” Daly said.

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“I spoke with Jim and accept his representation that he intended no harm with his comments and that he will handle similar questions from the media differently in the future.”

That the Canucks have been levied a fine isn’t a surprise at all, but the amount is to some extent. It’s certainly more substantial than I expected. 

While everyone – from Trevor Linden to Marc Bergevin – indicated at the draft that, in their opinion, Benning’s comments crossed the line, I think it’s pretty clear that the actual substance of the comments was relatively neutral in comparison with what Wilson said a few years back. Daly’s acceptance that “Benning intended no harm,” would imply that the league agreed to some extent, though clearly the relative dollar figure attached to the fine indicates the opposite – and forcefully.

Obviously Subban wasn’t actually dealt at the draft and though the Canucks are expected to pursue Stamkos, it’s widely believed that a scoring winger like Milan Lucic is their top priority

Benning has commented on the fine:

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As someone who has dealt extensively with Benning, his candidness and accessibility are remarkable and to his credit. We’ll have to hope that going forward Benning continues to be at least nearly as forthcoming as he’s always been during his time as Canucks general manager, because I genuinely do believe that having a top executive who speaks his mind openly is a good thing for the team, the league and fans in general. 

Even if that admirable impulse got Benning into some hot water in this instance. 

  • detox

    “As expected, the Vancouver Canucks have been levied an enormous $50,000 fine….”

    really? how big is the fine? how many draft picks?

    the fine is as big as Trump’s hands…


    (I didn’t realize there were so many trump supporters on CA.)

  • Vanoxy

    Benning should have known better, and I understand the need for tampering rules, but come on NHL.
    Any time a player, coach or GM shows any personality or tries to be engaged with the media, the league needs to squash it.

    I find Benning’s candidness so refreshing. But they had to keep the muzzle on him by the time draft day rolled around.

    • detox

      just think of the price of beer and variety of hot dogs available at games… :p

      edit: the fine is the cost of announcing to ufa’s and fans that the club wants to be competitive and make the playoffs.

  • arjay

    It appears the NHL is hell-bound and determined to let Vancouver know the level of disdain the Head Office has for all things Vancouver.

    Even though his comments to a direct question were fairly benign, I can see how they were not wise—despite the candor.

    What I don’t get is this logic by the NHL…

    “The amount is double what then-Toronto Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson was fined for tampering back in 2009, when he made significantly more suggestive and pointed comments indicating that his club was interested in pursuing the Sedin twins.”

    With that as an NHL precedent,and as noted a much more pointed case of tampering, I expected a fine in the $10,000.00 range and a verbal reprimand to GMJB for future reference.

    But a much slighter transgression from a Vancouver employee is viewed as being Twice as bad as the highest fine levied in this century.

    This sends several bad messages,

    It reinforces the rudderless leadership of the NHL.

    It proves there are different standards for different clubs.

    And the media has no accountability whatsoever for posing questions that they clearly would have to know were a violation of League policy.

    If there had been an accompanying sanction on the interviewers’ employer (such as a suspension of privileges)the message would be sent to all the media BY the media and this issue would likely never arise again.

    It is no secret that ambush interviews and story “creation” are where the modern day media has devolved.

    The precedent of including the media in this type of transgression would let them know that they might also be sanctioned for their actions.

    Good luck interviewing Canuck management or players going forward, media.

    (sample stock answers

    -we gave it 110%
    -that’s a good team over there
    -no comment
    -no comment

    • detox

      I’m not here to defend the NHL or some of their bias’ but I think the difference between when the Sedins were commented on vs. Stamkos and Subban is the Sedins were pending ufa’s (like Stamkos) but Subban is under contract for 6 more years…

      what is a little funny is, (hope I have this correct) JB said he inquired about Subban and other teams have expressed similar interest, which sounds like he was told by Bergevin that other teams have expressed interest too.

      is this really tampering or just repeating what he was told, making public, what Bergevin stated?

      • TrueBlue

        I think that sort of tampering is worse when directed at UFAs as opposed to players on a longer term contracts.

        Players under contract have little to no power over their futures outside of NTCs/NMCs.

        A UFA may be swayed to wait until July 1st if an outside GM indicates in the media that they want to pursue him.

        • detox

          I guess we are all second guessing.
          I get your point though with ufa’s, but with the week leading up to free agency, and teams talking to pending ufa’s, teams are letting their desires known. and as we see signings during the opening minutes of free agency, it is very odd, the parties involved are able to iron out the details of a lengthy contract in minutes…

          with a player being under contract like Subban, I was thinking it possibly damages the relationship between the player and the team when the player is being shopped before their ntc kicks in.

          so much stuff must happen behind the scenes, I think it is more embarrassing when it is made public than damaging or tampering.

  • detox

    i did not know it was offside to say you’d inquired about trading for a player. i thought gms often mentioned having talked to other gms.

    i think this has more to do with bergevin being irate that he was exposed as shopping subban around. even though that has nothing to do with the rules transgression i will bet that is what drove the fine.

    i also think some day there will be shenanigans exposed from this draft. right at the beginning of the draft montreal reported two trades that appeared to have nothing to do with that stage of the draft. bob mckenzie also reported at the same time that sonny milano was traded from cbj but then it didn’t happen. now cbj has reported they had a short trade down worked out that did not happen.

  • detox

    for instance

    maybe edmonton was swapping picks with cbj but planning to then trade the third pick to montreal so mtl could get dubois but cbj asked for a guarantee dubois would not be taken.

  • Cageyvet

    I hate when other teams do it to the Canucks so I have nothing to complain about this fine.

    It’s a rule that everyone knows so I’m surprised Benning thought it was OK. But in the big picture who really cares.

  • TheRealRusty

    TLJB are just morons, hired by the biggest idiot of them all – Acquilini. In no real respectable company would the top two guys be trained while on the job. Sad state of affairs.

    • TheRealRusty

      Agreed. TL was hired due to a knee jerk reaction to fan outrage to GMMG and Torts (ownership meddling…). I can get behind his hire if we surround him with a veteran management team. Instead we let him hire a rookie GM and coach.

  • detox

    What if Benning merely said “Vancouver has the finest custom jockstrap tailors in the whole world.”

    Would that be a case of tampering given that everyone knows Brouwer has large balls unlikely to fit inside a product off the shelf?

    Ron Maclean needs to pitch some soft questions about tampering fines to Colin Campbell in a TV segment like they’ve done to assuage concerns about random suspensions being the right path, and how lockouts are good for fans.

  • detox

    Another example of JB talking too much:

    “At some point during the discussions, it was revealed to Chiarelli that Columbus would not trade down past four because Vancouver was dead-set on Dubois, and Columbus was not willing to risk the third guy on their board. Realizing that Columbus would take Dubois at three if it came down to it, the game had changed.”


    JB needs to stop broadcasting his intentions to the entire league…

    • Cageyvet

      Exactly. A fine was warranted, but when it’s a new record in discipline, you can bet it’s against a team that isn’t in the league’s hip pocket. It’s largely meaningless, but the double standards are endless….the NHLPA is just as corrupt, what did they do about Lucic’s cowardly groin shot? I didn’t see them step up to protect player safety, they covered for one of their salary-driving stars.

      Playing favourites in this league is as commonplace as actually playing hockey.

  • detox

    The team has paid the price for breaking the rule, but those 2 idiots from TSN also should have known not to get into a conversation with Benning about potential free agents.

  • Gino's 3rd Cousin

    I support candid Jimbo. If Gillis, Nonis, Burke and JB are hanging off of a cliff and I can only save one it’s gonna be Jimmy. He’s got a Rainman vibe that I enjoy.

  • Hockey Warrior

    Of COURSE the league came down like a Milan Lucic open ice hit on the Canucks, and rightly so – Trader Jim was in the wrong, especially talking ON AIR about a franchise player who is UNDER CONTRACT for years to come ffs.

    The severity of the fine underlines the HATRED abd DISDAIN the NHL head office (and the league) has for an organisation whose fans SHAMED the league, city, franchise and indeed COUNTRY with not one but TWO heinous RIOTS following losses in the Stanley Cup final.

    That’s WHY Vancouver will always receive a more severe punishment and no favorable calls on or off the ice folks… the NHL cannot risk Vancouver ever getting to the final again… thank you VANCOUVER CANUCKS fans – you reap what you sow eh!

      • detox

        Hey Rusty,

        The funny thing about the internet is you can be happy where you are at or with whatever team you are rooting for and there are gaggles of folks that want to tell you that you shouldn’t be happy where you are or with the team you root for…

        The Nation Network covers all these teams while I never feel inclined to stray from the CA section yet all these fans from other teams want to contribute here.

        The situation is so bad for Vancovuer, yet posters like HW take the time to keep coming back. I think they must be closet Canuck fans or the teams they root for are worse off.

        They never say my team is better or ever mention the team they are rooting for. very odd.

  • Bud Poile

    And the next day Subban is gone.

    Spineless Montreal GM and their bully dick of a coach.

    Yeah,Benning that bad guy,lets fine him $50,000.00 for being such a bad man speaking what the whole world already knew.


  • Juniore

    Is it a case of GMJB intentionally doing it to announce to the league: “Hey, we want to be competitive & be in the playoffs next year”? Or, is it a case of him just not knowing the rules?