VANCOUVER, B.C., OCT. 26 -- The National Hockey League suspended Coach Bryan Murray of the Washington Capitals for three games today for his part in an off-ice confrontation with linesman Ron Asselstine in Buffalo Oct. 11.
In an unprecedented mitigation of Murray's role in the incident, the league also issued a three-game suspension to Asselstine.
Murray's sentence is scheduled to commence Nov. 3, with the intervening week designed to give the Capitals time to appeal the ruling, which also included a $2,000 fine to the club.
Washington General Manager David Poile, however, said the Capitals would not appeal it and instead asked the NHL to begin the suspension on Friday.
If the request is approved, Murray would miss road games in Winnipeg and Minnesota, as well as the Nov. 3 home game against Vancouver. If the suspension begins on schedule, he would sit out the Vancouver game, another home contest against Quebec and a Patrick Division game at New Jersey.
In Murray's absence, the team will be handled by his brother, assistant coach Terry Murray.
Poile, in declining to appeal, said, "Even though I don't totally agree with the suspension, we'll accept it. It's a regrettable situation, especially with the team's locker room so close to the officials' room."
Murray learned of the decision late this afternoon when he made a routine call to Poile from Chicago, where the Capitals changed planes en route here.
On arrival, Murray said, "I have no comment. I can't say anything. Enough is enough."
The ruling on Murray was issued by Brian O'Neill, the NHL executive vice president who generally administers on-ice discipline, rather than NHL President John Ziegler, the man usually assigned off-ice problems involving coaches and club officials. It was Ziegler who issued Murray a $1,000 fine several years ago for postgame shouting matches with referees Don Koharski and Ron Wicks.
"John was involved in the ruling and it was just a matter of whose name was on it," an NHL spokesman explained. "Brian collected all the facts."
The incident occurred after the first period of the Capitals-Sabres game. According to an eyewitness account, Murray stopped in the corridor that leads to both the visitors' dressing room and the officials' room and asked referee Bill McCreary why he had issued a bench minor penalty to Murray late in the first period.
Asselstine was said to have replied with an obscenity, at which point the door to the officials' room was closed. When the teams prepared to go out for the second period, Murray was waiting outside the officials' room and challenged Asselstine over his comment.
The two yelled at each other and exchanged shoves before they were separated by linesman Bob Hodges.
O'Neill's statement cited rule 67, which subjects players to an automatic three-game suspension for "demeaning or applying physical force to an official."
O'Neill added, "Coaches must be subject to at least the same standards of behavior. Coach Murray provoked the exchange by confronting the officials on two occasions during the first intermission of the game."
Asselstine declined to comment on the decision, but an NHL spokesman said, "To my knowledge, Asselstine is the first official to be given a suspension."