By Joe Haggerty
BEDFORD It appears Nathan Horton -- and the Boston Bruins -- dodged a bullet Thursday afternoon.
The St. Petersburg Times reported on Twitter that Bill Daly, the NHL's deputy commissioner, said there will be no punishment for either Horton or the Tampa Bay Lightning for end-of-the-game incidents after Game 6 in Tampa Wednesday night.
"Based on what I know now, I don't expect any action of any kind," Daly wrote in an e-mail to the Times Thursday.
Horton appeared to spray a Tampa Bay Lightning fan with a water bottle from the bench, and then toss the water bottle at the fan, as he stalked down the runway. The league has handed down suspensions during the playoffs in the past for water-bottle incidents with fans. Horton took a roughing penalty after engaging in a tussle with Nate Thompson at the end of regulation. That incident, and the end of the game, prompted fans to shower rally devices -- noisemakers that were handed out by the team prior to the game -- onto the ice as the players were attempting to get to the dressing room.
Versus cameras showed David Krejci getting bonked in the head area with at least a couple of the noise-making devices, and video footage compiled by Tampa Bay Lightning writer Mike Corcoran shows Horton losing his cool as he stepped off the ice. The footage is grainy and inconclusive as to exactly what happened, but it appears to show Horton spraying a hard-charging Tampa Bay fan with a water bottle, and then tossing the bottle into the stands at the excitable spectator. There was no further trouble, as security held back the fan and Horton went to the dressing room.
There is past history for NHL playoff discipline toward players or coaches in water-bottle incidents. Rangers coach John Tortorella was suspended during the 2009 playoffs for one game after spraying and then throwing a water bottle at a particularly crazed fan. It was two years ago, but in a nice piece of digging by Pro Hockey Talks Joe Yerdon, here is NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbells reasoning at the time for suspending Tortorella for a playoff game:While it is a difficult decision to suspend a coach at this point in a playoff series, it has been made clear to all of our players, coaches and other bench personnel that the National Hockey League cannot and will not tolerate any physical contact with fans. We do not take this action lightly.Wednesday's incident underscores how chaotic the atmosphere was on the St. Pete Times Forum ice at the end of the game. Handing hockey fans potential projectiles as they walk into a playoff atmosphere has proven ill-advised time and time again, but the Lighting once again stepped into a mess harboring an unsafe environment for the players on the ice.Horton got off the team plane at Hanscom Air Field along with the rest of his teammates on Thursday afternoon, but wasnt made available for comment.