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O'Reilly case likely subject to NHL's off-ice discipline policy

With all parties in investigative mode and a court date in London, Ont., not scheduled until Aug. 20, it's early to say what penalties Sabres center Ryan O'Reilly could face in the wake of his arrest last week for driving while ability impaired and leaving the scene of an accident.

The reports surfaced Monday night about O'Reilly, 24, crashing his vintage 1951 Chevrolet pickup truck into a Tim Hortons in Lucan, Ont., and then being arrested while walking on foot after abandoning the vehicle.

It's almost certain the NHL will be looking into the O'Reilly matter, although Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly could not confirm that process has opened Tuesday.

Said Daly in an e-mail to The News: "As with any other DUI-related arrest, Ryan will be referred for evaluation immediately under the NHL/NHLPA Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program."

That program was jointly introduced by the league and the Players Association in 1996 to address needs of players who run into trouble or reach out for help.

It remains to be seen if the DWAI will impact the ability of O'Reilly, a Canadian citizen, from crossing the border into the United States to work. O'Reilly could face up to six months in jail for leaving the scene.

The league does not have a blanket policy of penalties for off-ice issues. Article 18-A of the collective bargaining agreement allows commissioner Gary Bettman to impose penalties for conduct "that is detrimental to or against the welfare of the League or the game of hockey".

Those penalties can include fines of up to $10,000, suspension from game action or even the cancellation of a player's entire contract. The Sabres, of course, could impose their own discipline against O'Reilly, pending appeal of the player to the league and PA.

O'Reilly, of course, has yet to play a game for Buffalo. He was acquired in a draft night trade from Colorado on June 26 and signed a seven-year, $52.5-million extension on July 3, giving him the largest contract in franchise history.

Pending adjudication of a case, the league can simply suspend a player unilaterally as well.

That's what happened in the case of Los Angeles Kings defenseman Slava Voynov, who played just six games last season after being arrested on a domestic violence charge in October. Voynov  pleaded no contest to the charges on July 2, was sentenced to 90 days in jail and three years probation.

The league used Article 18-A.5 of the CBA to suspend Voynov, where in its judgment "the failure to suspend the Player during this period would create a substantial risk of material harm to the legitimate interests and/or reputation of the League."

The league has had two other recent off-ice cases regarding the Kings: Free agent forward Jarrett Stoll was charged with felony cocaine possession April 17 in Las Vegas and veteran center Mike Richards had his contract terminated by the team last month for "material breach"  after he was allegedly stopped at the Canadian/U.S. border in connection with the unlawful possession of OxyContin pills. The league has not needed to take any action against either player because they are not under contract.


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