Like any good brawler, Chris Neil has his ‘go-to’ moves. Some guys like to use the chinstrap to twist the helmet. Others pull down at the collar for leverage. Neil appaeared to debut a new finishing move Wednesday night in a fight against the Columbus Blue Jackets’ Jared Boll: the eye gouge.
Both Boll and Neil were given five-minute fighting majors. Neil was also given an additional two minutes for ‘unsportsmanlike conduct’ for the eye gouge.
So why didn’t Neil get more than two minutes? It seems all parties agreed that it was unintentional.
Watch Neil apologize (1:40 in the video above) to Boll from within the penalty box, gesturing that he was simply trying to remove his opponent’s helmet. Boll shrugs and appears to say, “It happens.”
You can even see, during the fight, the moment he realizes his grab missed Boll’s helmet and caught nothing but face. Neil withdraws his hand and opens up his palm. As the linesmen break up the fight, Neil gives Boll a sportsmanlike pat on the back.
While Neil’s poke was unintentional, we’ve seen this move before with a bit more intent. Steve Ott used an eye gouge against Travis Moen back in 2009 and was hit with a match penalty for intent to injure, along with a subsequent one-game suspension. Brad Marchand alleged that he was eye-gouged by Chicago’s Andrew Shaw in the 2013 Stanley Cup Finals.
With the dust settled and apologies all around, it looks like Neil’s inadvertent eye gouge will slide… at least until the Sens and Jackets play each other and Boll gets a rematch.