The Finnish Elite League (SM-Liiga) has suspended Sport forward Colby Robak six games for an illegal check to the head of Lukon’s Antti Saarela.
Robak was given a five-minute major penalty for a check to the head or neck, along with a game misconduct. Saarela was injured on the play and did not return to the game.
Tilannehuone tarkasti #VaasanSport–#Lukko-ottelusta tilanteen, josta Sportin Colby Robakille tuomittiin ajassa 35.40 5+20 minuutin rangaistus päähän kohdistuneesta taklauksesta.
? Päävideotuomari asetti tilanteen #Liiga‘n kurinpitodelegaation käsittelyyn. pic.twitter.com/arV0xrzrr3
— Liiga (@smliiga) December 27, 2018
The league ruled that Robak raised his arms in order to make contact with Saarela’s head, which is in direct violation of Rule 124. Rather than targeting the body in order to make a legal body check, Robak instead made Saarela’s head the primary point of contact. This is an illegal check to the head.
It is important to note that Saarela is eligible to be checked on this play, but the onus is on Robak to deliver a legal body check. Instead, Robak used his arms to deliver a head to Saarela’s head.
Robak has not been previously suspended by the league.
Good to see SM-Liiga take a strong stance against illegal checks to the head. A six-game suspension sends a clear message, especially for a player with no prior disciplinary history. With the 60-game seasons in the SM-Liiga, that’s the equivalent of an 8-game ban in the NHL for a first-time offender.