Referee Shoves Toronto Maple Leafs’ Michael Bunting Off The Ice After Scrum

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Andrew Powell Sports and Entertainment Blogger
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Woah, what was going on here?

Late in the first period of the Dec. 20 Tampa Bay Lightning and Toronto Maple Leafs game, Tampa Bay’s Pierre-Edouard Bellemare landed a massive hit on Toronto’s Mitch Marner. The rest of the Maple Leafs came to back up Marner in response, issuing a challenge to Bellemare before he got off the ice.

During the near-brawl, Toronto forward Michael Bunting got mixed up with teammate Anthony Cirelli and the Lightning‘s Mikhail Sergachev. Referee Dan Kelly then got in the middle of the scuffle when he grabbed Bunting and took him off the rink.

But things got strange shortly thereafter.

Bunting was still yelling at some of the Tampa Bay players before he headed down the tunnel, but Kelly stopped him by giving him multiple shoves towards the locker room.


In my 32 years of living and eight years of professionally covering sports, I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a referee push an athlete. And not only did Kelly push Bunting, he straight-up treated him like a bouncer treats a drunk sleazeball at some bar in New Jersey at 2:00 a.m. on a Saturday.

What the hell was going on here, exactly?

Are NHL referees allowed to push players like that?

Does Kelly have some kind of beef with Bunting?

I honestly have so many questions about this entire episode. (RELATED: Colorado Avalanche’s Cale Makar Gets Referees To Nix Penalty Against New York Islanders After Admitting He Slipped)

With that being said, I truly want to thank Dan Kelly for the wonderful content. That was great. And I also want to thank Michael Bunting for the “what the fuck are you doing?!” at the end of the confrontation.

Damn, I love hockey.