Scrums are common in the NHL with players getting into shoving matches often throughout the course of a game. It is less common to see an official get involved too, which is what linesman Dan Kelly did to Toronto Maple Leafs forward Michael Bunting on Tuesday night.
During the Maple Leafs' 4-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning, a late hit on Mitch Marner by Pierre-Edouard Bellemare at the end of the first period created a scuffle. Bunting came to the defense of his teammate and seemed willing to take on both Mikhail Sergachev and Anthony Cirelli.
Kelly pulled Bunting away from the confrontation before the situation escalated, but he did a little more than that. Kelly escorted Bunting to the door and shoved him off the ice, and Bunting almost fell backward as he tripped over the boards.
At the time, Bunting was clearly taken aback by Kelly's aggressiveness. However, Bunting had cooled off by the time he was asked about it in his postgame press conference.
"I just think emotions were high," Bunting said. "It's hockey, and you move on from it. Not really a big deal."
Bunting also said it was not the first time he had crossed paths with Kelly. Before breaking through with the Maple Leafs last year, Bunting spent a lot of time in the AHL, where he played against Kelly.
"Yeah, I played against him in the minors," Bunting said. "Yeah, I did. No history there. Well, I probably have history with everyone."
Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe echoed Bunting's sentiment and said it wasn't the first time he has seen an official get more assertive with a player.
"Yeah, I have," Keefe said. "It happens. It's an emotional game."
The NHL has not issued a public statement about Kelly, who is in his third season as an official in the AHL and NHL.