Owen owns up
Sharks meet with Bettman; decision expected Saturday
Nolan, San Jose general manager Dean Lombardi and team president Greg Jamison pleaded their case to NHL officials for 2 1/2 hours during an appeal hearing Friday. Bettman told the Sharks he planned to reach a decision this weekend.
"The commissioner asked a number of questions, and we did our best to answer them," Lombardi said. "The process went well, and whatever the result, we can't complain about the process. We had our chance to be heard."
League discipline chief Colin Campbell suspended Nolan last week for his Feb. 1 hit on Dallas forward Grant Marshall, who received a concussion and was hospitalized overnight.
The Sharks' game at Nashville Friday night was the fifth Nolan has missed since the suspension. If the 11-game ban is upheld, Nolan won't be eligible to return until March 1.
In a meeting that lasted much longer than either side expected, the Sharks and officials from the NHL Players' Association made arguments supporting Nolan, who admitted he regretted his actions. Nolan also spoke with Bettman, Lombardi said.
"The commissioner asked Nolan a lot of questions," Lombardi said. "I give the commissioner credit for trying to get inside Owen's head and trying to understand what goes on out there on the ice."
Marshall was knocked unconscious when Nolan, furious after Marshall hit him from behind near the boards earlier in the period, leveled him with a forearm-elbow blow near the teams' benches. Marshall was taken from the ice on a stretcher, but he returned to the Stars' lineup a few days later.
The Sharks' appeal was focused on the fact Marshall missed only one game, making the 11-game punishment inconsistent with the criteria for past suspensions, Jamison said.
"I thought the commissioner had a very open mind as to what was going on," Jamison said. "I feel very satisfied that once the commissioner makes his decision, we will have closure on this and move on to some other things."
The Sharks, who faced Nashville Friday night, were 2-0-2 in their first four games since Nolan's suspension.
Lombardi said Nolan, who wasn't available for comment, expressed remorse to Bettman. Nolan has come under heavy public criticism for his revenge blow, which came in a one-goal game against the Sharks' biggest division rival.
Nolan was the NHL's sixth-leading scorer last season with 44 goals and 84 points, and led San Jose into the second round of the playoffs.
"He had done a lot toward shedding the image he had when he was younger and he made some mistakes," Lombardi said. "I just hope this doesn't reflect negatively on Owen in terms of what he's built. ... He's a tough player, not a dirty player. That much is clear by his record over the last 10 years."
The hearing also was an opportunity for Lombardi to smooth his relationship with Bettman. Last week, Lombardi said Bettman harbored an "intense dislike" for him that could have affected Nolan's suspension.
"I thought that it was proper that I meet with him one-on-one and tell him face-to-face that those comments weren't appropriate," Lombardi said. "To jeopardize the process wasn't smart. It was an emotional response.
"[Bettman] didn't let it affect his professionalism in terms of the hearing."
Regardless of Bettman's decision, the Sharks said they were satisfied with their opportunity to argue their case. They realize appeals of suspensions are rare -- and rarely successful -- in the NHL.