James Neal Becomes First Player Fined For Diving In NHL Crackdown

James Neal

Nashville Predators winger James Neal has become the first player in NHL history to be fined under Rule 64: Diving/Embellishment. The league fined Neal $2,000 on Wednesday after he committed a second violation against the San Jose Sharks on Saturday.

Neal received a minor penalty for embellishment at 19:39 of the third period on Saturday. San Jose winger Barclay Goodrow was called for slashing on the play. Goodrow appeared to tap Neal in the back of his left thigh, causing Neal to react dramatically by clutching his knee and falling to the ice in cannonball form.

Previously, Neal had been issued a warning following a diving/embellishment violation committed during the Predators’ Nov. 13 game in St. Louis. This incident was not penalized by officials during the game. The NHL’s Hockey Operations Department flagged the play. Through its own internal deliberations, the department was convinced that the incident warranted sanction.

A third violation would trigger a $3,000 fine with each citation’s fine rising by $1,000 until a fifth citation is reached. At that point, the player is fined the maximum $5,000.

The offseason revision of Rule 64 has allowed the league to bring attention to repeated divers/embellishers by publicizing fines. League general managers pushed for stricter penalties during the league’s GM meetings in March. The new, harsher penalties were announced by the league on Sept. 11.

Here is the league’s graduated scale for diving/embellishment fines:

Incident # Player Fine(s) Head Coach Fine(s)
1 Warning N/A
2 $2,000 N/A
3 $3,000 N/A
4 $4,000 N/A
5 $5,000 $2,000
6 $5,000 $3,000
7 $5,000 $4,000
8 $5,000 $5,000


Head coaches will begin receiving fines once his team is adjudged to have committed a fifth violation of Rule 64.

Fans around the league have long associated Neal’s name with diving. Now that Neal has been officially branded as a serial diver by the league, the hope is that other players will fear having their name connected to diving and embellishing.

It remains to be seen whether the tactic of fining and publicizing the names of Rule 64 offenders will have an effect on curtailing diving and embellishing in the league.

That being said, it will provide ammunition for opposing fans to taunt offenders. Neal should expect to see some creative signs displayed in away arenas. Remember when Philadelphia Flyers fans held up mock Olympic scorecards to taunt reputed diver and Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby? Yeah, we could see those again.

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Sean Hartnett
Sean Hartnett has covered the New York Rangers and the NHL for WFAN.com since 2011. He has covered two Stanley Cup Finals. Sean now contributes to XNSports’ NHL and general sports coverage. He devotes far too much of his free time watching Simpsons and Seinfeld reruns. Sean can be reached via Twitter @HartnettHockey.