The NHL’s Department of Player Safety has suspended Detroit Red Wings forward Gustav Nyquist six games for high-sticking Minnesota’s Jared Spurgeon.
Nyquist’s stick attack happened 14:13 into the first period of Sunday’s game. Nyquist was given a double-minor for high-sticking that caused injury but remained in the game.
“I didn’t mean to do that,” Nyquist said. “My stick gets caught. I am trying to get body position on him. I’m happy he was out there again. I had no intention of doing that. My stick gets caught. It looks bad, but I’m happy he’s okay.”
“That’s just a battle, that’s just the way it goes. Along the boards, then after that I’m trying to get body position on him and my stick gets caught, so it was good to see him out there right after. I’m happy he was out there playing the rest of the game. Obviously, I’ve got to have better control of my stick.”
Nyquist’s explanation to Player Safety was that he intended to cross-check Spurgeon in retaliation for a hit from the Wild defenseman just moments before. While that argument may have provided, in Nyquist’s mind, some justification for the high-stick, it merely reinforced its retaliatory nature.
In their ruling the NHL called the play “not an accidental or inadvertent high stick,” though they accepted Nyquist’s explanation that his intent was not to deliver a spear to his opponent’s face.
Spurgeon was not injured on the play, which factored into the length of Nyquist’s suspension, though Player Safety did acknowledge that the stick jab had the potential to cause an in jury that was “major or career threatening.”
“As soon as I heard he was just getting stitched up it made me feel a lot better,” said Minnesota head coach Bruce Boudreau. “Two inches closer and the guy could’ve speared his eye out.”
Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg stuck up for his teammate.
“I don’t think he meant to spear him in the face,” said Zetterberg. “Probably tried to move his stick over and got caught. I think everyone in here knows him better than that.”
This is Nyquist’s first NHL suspension. The six game ban will cost him $158,333.34 in salary.