Vegas Golden Knights star Ryan Reaves has been suspended by the NHL for two games after fighting with controversial Colorado Avalanche rival Ryan Graves in a 7-1 loss, and reportedly even ripped out chunks of his victims hair.
The incident occurred in Game 1 of a playoff clash between the two teams on the road to the Stanley Cup.
In the third period, with tempers flaring, Reaves was captured rabbit punching Graves in the back of his head, then throwing him onto the ice and going after the object of his ire while he was still down.
Reaves receiving an intent to injure penalty in the heat of the moment, the league has later explained its action against him.
“Reaves continues the altercation, using his body weight to force Graves’ head into the ice,” it said in a suspension video.
“As both the officials and other players attempt unsuccessfully to separate the two, Reaves continues to push forcefully down on the vulnerable Graves, eventually ripping his helmet off.”
“During this scrum, both the officials and Reaves acknowledge that a chunk of Graves’ hair was pulled out by Reaves,” it concluded.
Golden Knights forward Ryan Reaves has been suspended two games for roughing and unsportsmanlike conduct in game one against the Avs last night #VegasBorn
— Jesse Merrick (@JesseNews3LV) May 31, 2021
Before the ruling had been handed down, Reaves’ coach Peter DeBoer said on Monday that it was “not hard to defend” his charge.
“To me, Ryan Reaves is one of the cleanest tough guys that I’ve seen in the league in my 12, 13 years,” he claimed.
But on the other side of the puck, the Avalanches’ captain Gabriel Landeskog insisted that “Reaves is on a mission to go out and hurt somebody in the third [period], and that’s what he goes out and does.”
#Avs captain Gabriel Landeskog on Ryan Reaves: “Reaves, he’s on a mission to go out there and hurt someone in the third. That’s what he does.”
— Peter Baugh (@Peter_Baugh) May 31, 2021
Debate is divided on Reaves’ character, then.
He and his Golden Knights teammates had been made upset by Graves when he performed a late, hard hit that injured Mattias Janmark before that in the second period, with Graves getting off lightly through a two-minute minor penalty for interference.
But a few days ago, he was also caught pushing the Minnesota Wild’s Ryan Suter into the post, during a decisive game in the series the Vegas team ended up winning 4-3 – to go on an advance against the Avalanche.
A reporter who covers the Colorado outfit demanded “Suspend Ryan Reaves now. Absolute joke,” on Twitter, and was met with fans of either side who either backed him or believed Graves should have been reprimanded instead.
The incident was called “absolutely disgusting” elsewhere, in addition to Reaves being branded “the most worthless player in the league” and a “joke of a human being”.
“Vegas is truly a garbage franchise,” it was added.
Told you. Suspend Ryan Reaves now. Absolute joke
— Kyle Keefe (@kylekeefetv) May 31, 2021
Another party claimed that Reaves “was looking for that” and admitted “if he’s gone for eternity, that’s ok with me”.
Reacting to the light suspension, a pundit said: “Just two games, after you gave him a free pass a week ago. This is why guys keep going back to the well, consequences basically don’t exist.”
More scathing detractors dubbed it “garbage” and the league “embarrassing”, while lamenting that “no message” had been sent to Reaves or similar offenders.
Just two games, after you gave him a free pass a week ago. This is why guys keep going back to the well, consequences basically don’t exist
— Jeff Veillette (@JeffVeillette) May 31, 2021
In 2013, Reaves, then playing for the St. Louis Blues, was also involved in one of the most fiery punch ups of recent times with the Montreal Canadiens’ George Parros.
Earning kudos as a “tough guy” among hockey fight purists for going toe-to-toe with a “seasoned heavyweight”, Reaves is clearly less appreciated around the league.