The National Hockey League will investigate Paul Mulvey's claims that Don Perry, coach of the Los Angeles Kings, ordered him to leave the bench and join in a fight during a Jan. 24 game with the Vancouver Canucks.

Mulvey, a former member of the Washington Capitals, said he refused to join the fight. The Kings put him on waivers Saturday, but he didn't learn of the action until a reporter told him Sunday, according to United Press International.

An NHL spokesman said John A. Ziegler Jr., NHL president, and Brian F. O'Neill, the league's executive vice president, will talk to Mulvey, Perry and others before making a finding. He said there will be no comment on the matter until the investigation is completed.

Mulvey was unavailable for comment yesterday.

Alan Eagleson, executive director of the NHL Players Association, told the Associated Press that the NHLPA has lodged an official protest with the NHL.

"In this day and age, if a player can be suspended for not jumping off the bench to get involved in a fight, it is a sad day for hockey and the NHL," Eagleson said. "It goes to show that the players are a lot smarter than some of the coaches."

George Maguire, general manager of the Kings, denied that Perry had ordered the 6-foot-4, 220-pound left winger to go on the ice to fight.

"If Vancouver came out on the ice, he wanted Mulvey ready to go," Maguire said. "He wanted equal people on the ice, but he did not send him out there to fight."

But UPI quoted Perry as confirming he ordered Mulvey on to the ice to fight.

Perry said: "I just wanted to equalize the situation. Paul unfortunately felt he didn't want to do that . . . If you're not prepared to stick up for your teammates, I don't want you on my hockey club.

"Number one, I don't like to clear the bench. But if I do want to clear the bench, I want to have enough control of my players that I, as coach, decide what players go off, who I might lose the next game.

"I don't want a Marcel Dionne (the Kings' leading scorer) jumping off the bench."

Mulvey, the Kings' leader in penalty minutes with 126 in 37 games, was on the bench when the fight started. After Ron Delorme of the Canucks left the penalty box to join the fight--a penalty that carries an automatic three-game suspension--Perry told Mulvey to join the battle, Perry told UPI.

Mulvey refused. Perry said he repeated the demand three more times and each time Mulvey refused. Mark Hardy and Rick Chartraw did leave the Kings' bench, and so did the rest of the players from both teams.

Rules prohibit players from leaving the players' bench or the penalty box during an altercation or to start an altercation. There is nothing in the rules about a coach telling a player to leave the bench to join a fight.

After three seasons with the Capitals, Mulvey, 23, was sent to the Hershey farm and then to the Pittsburgh Penguins last summer.

Maguire said he obtained Mulvey because the Kings had several injured players in December when Pittsburgh put him on waivers.

"I simply picked up Mulvey to fill a hole in the lineup," Maguire said. "It was a stopgap measure. Mulvey is simply not good enough to play on this team, and this is what bothers him, because he hasn't been getting ice time."

Maguire said he put Mulvey on waivers, "because, by keeping him, I would go against the coach's wishes."

If no NHL team claims Mulvey by Wednesday, he could be sent to the Kings' AHL farm in New Haven, Conn., or released.

In an interview with The New York Times Sunday, Mulvey acknowledged that his refusal to comply with Perry's order might have ended his NHL career.

But he said: "I'm not going to be a designated assassin who just comes off the bench to fight . . . If that's the only thing I can do in the NHL, go out and fight, then maybe my career is over."