Dallas Stars defenseman Jason Demers was given a game misconduct for boarding New York Islanders forward Cal Clutterbuck.   The hit happened 5:07 into the second period of Sunday night’s game.

Both officials’ arms went up immediately after the hit, with referee Chris Rooney immediately gesturing that Demers was being tossed from the game. 

From the NHL rulebook:

41.1 Boarding – A boarding penalty shall be imposed on any player who checks or pushes a defenseless opponent in such a manner that causes the opponent to hit or impact the boards violently or dangerously.

The severity of the penalty, based upon the impact with the boards, shall be at the discretion of the Referee.   There is an enormous amount of judgment involved in the application of this rule by the Referees. The onus is on the player applying the check to ensure his opponent is not in a defenseless position and if so, he must avoid or minimize contact.  

Clutterbuck was undoubtedly defenseless on the play.  The severity of the hit, as well as the possible injury, turned out to not be as bad as it initially appeared. 

Demers has been in trouble with the Department of Player Safety before.  The blueliner was suspended for two games earlier this season for elbowing.

His coach, though, defended the hit. 

“I think the guy who got hit has a history of diving,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff, per Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News. “I looked at the play. I don’t think he elbowed him.”

“I don’t think he did anything, really,” added Ruff. “[Clutterbuck] didn’t look hurt, but he sold it pretty good. Maybe he deserved a minor penalty. That’s my take on it.”

Clutterbuck was down for a few moments before being assisted off the ice by a medical trainer.  He returned later in the second period, ultimately scoring two goals — including the game-winner —  in an eventual 6-5 Islanders win. 

Referees for the game were Ian Walsh and Chris Rooney. Linesmen were Tim Nowak and Bryan Pancich. 

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