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Gary Bettman keeps 10-game ban for Ducks' Antoine Vermette

NEW YORK -- The NHL on Saturday upheld the 10-game suspension of Anaheim Ducks center Antoine Vermette for slashing a linesman.

Commissioner Gary Bettman kept the full ban in place but also declined to shorten it. Vermette will lose $97,222 in salary.

Vermette slapped his stick against the back of linesman Shandor Alphonso's legs after losing a faceoff to Minnesota's Mikko Koivu during the third period of the Ducks' 1-0 win on Feb. 14. Vermette had a hearing with Bettman on Thursday after appealing the initial suspension.

The veteran forward served the fifth game of his suspension Saturday when the Ducks visited Los Angeles. He is eligible to return at home March 12 against Washington.

Vermette hasn't yet decided if he will appeal further to an independent arbitrator. The NHL Players' Association now has seven days to decide whether to go that route on Vermette's behalf or not.

In a statement released later Saturday, Vermette acknowledged his actions warranted a suspension but felt a 10-game ban was "excessive."

"First and foremost, I have great respect for the officials and the integrity of the game," Vermette said in the statement. "Also, I agree that I deserve a suspension. I should never make contact with an official. At the earliest possible opportunity, I apologized to Mr. Shandor Alphonso. I was trying to get his attention and was not trying to hurt him. However, using my stick was a mistake, and I accept full responsibility for my actions.

"I certainly hope my track record in the NHL will earn me the benefit of the doubt regarding this incident. I feel a 10-game suspension is excessive and will be reviewing my options. I look forward to returning to the lineup as soon as possible."

The normally mild-mannered Vermette appeared to act out of frustration when Alphonso dropped the puck before the forward had put his stick in place on the ice. Officials immediately assessed a game misconduct to Vermette.

Bettman noted in his written opinion Vermette's "sincere remorse." The player apologized to Alphonso, who is in his first full season as an NHL linesman.

The NHLPA sought a reduction to a five-game suspension, noting Vermette's usually exemplary behavior. He has been whistled for only two major penalties in a 13-season career.

The union argued the slash wasn't a deliberate application of physical force under NHL rules, but a lesser action deserving a smaller suspension. But Alphonso described the blow as a "slash" in his postgame report and again in testimony at Vermette's hearing.

"Although there does not appear to be any evidence of intent to injure the official, the blow delivered by Vermette was not merely a 'tap,' as the NHLPA suggested," Bettman wrote.

ESPN's Pierre LeBrun contributed to this report.