Nashville Predators forward Ryan Johansen has been suspended two games for a two-handed stick chop across the head of Winnipeg Jets center Mark Scheifele.
The incident took place at 16:28 of the first period of Thursday night’s game in Nashville. Johansen was given a two-minute minor for high-sticking by referees Wes McCauley and Dan O’Halloran.
In their explanation, NHL Player Safety considered Johansen’s claim that the contact was accidental but levied the suspension based on the fact that players are responsible for their sticks at all time.
“While we accept Johansen’s assertion that he was not attempting to intentionally strike Scheifele in the head,” stated Player Safety, “this is not a case where a player is so off-balance or otherwise unable to control his stick that the play can be sufficiently penalized by the on-ice officials.”
From the NHL rule book:
60.1 High-sticking – A “high stick” is one which is carried above the height of the opponent’s shoulders. Players must be in control and responsible for their stick. However, a player is permitted accidental contact on an opponent if the act is committed as a normal windup or follow through of a shooting motion, or accidental contact on the opposing center who is bent over during the course of a face-off. A wild swing at a bouncing puck would not be considered a normal windup or follow through and any contact to an opponent above the height of the shoulders shall be penalized accordingly.
60.2 Minor Penalty – Any contact made by a stick on an opponent above the shoulders is prohibited and a minor penalty shall be imposed.
60.3 Double-minor Penalty – When a player carries or holds any part of his stick above the shoulders of the opponent so that injury results, the Referee shall assess a double-minor penalty for all contact that causes an injury, whether accidental or careless, in the opinion of the Referee.
60.4 Match Penalty – When, in the opinion of the Referee, a player attempts to or deliberately injures an opponent while carrying or holding any part of his stick above the shoulders of the opponent, the Referee shall assess a match penalty to the offending player.
Scheifele was not injured on the play and remained in the game, finishing with 20:27 of ice time and two shots on goal in a 5-1 Jets win.
Ken Campbell of the Hockey News was not a fan of the short suspension, calling it “a disgrace.”
“…as he completes his pivot, his stick comes down and makes contact with Scheifele.” Lawyers, take note: “As my client turned around with a gun in his hand and pulled the trigger, the bullet came in contact with the victim.”
— Ken Campbell (@THNKenCampbell) January 18, 2019
“I wish the league would spend less time trying to divine intent and more time on the action,” wrote The Athletic’s Jonathan Willis,”but that’s certainly not the standard.”
Johansen forfeits $86,021.50 in salary as a result of the suspension. He has never previously been fined or suspended by the NHL Department of Player Safety.