Philadelphia Flyers forward Jakob Voracek was suspended two games for interference on the Islanders’ Johnny Boychuk. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman upheld the two-game ban after Voracek appealed Player Safety’s decision.
The hit came at 5:41 of the third period during Saturday’s game on Long Island. Voracek was given a major penalty for interference by referees Frederick L’Ecuyer and Dean Morton.
In his appeal, Voracek conceded that he would have accepted a one-game suspension, but that he was appealing the additional game.
With the Flyers on the playoff bubble – currently five points out of the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference – Voracek’s absence in the Philadelphia lineup could impact their Stanley Cup Playoff odds. His 18 goals and 61 points have him third on the team in scoring.
From Bettman’s ruling:
During the play at issue, Mr. Boychuk skates through the offensive zone in the direction of the puck which had been rimmed around the goal line. As Mr. Boychuk skates through the circle towards the corner boards, Mr. Voracek, waiting along the half wall near the side boards, takes an affirmative step to the left directly into Mr. Boychuk’s line of motion, and drives upwards into Mr. Boychuk, causing a forceful blow where substantial contact was made with Mr. Boychuk’s head. Neither player was near the puck at the time the players made contact with one another, resulting in an interference penalty on Mr. Voracek.
At the hearing, Mr. Voracek conceded that his conduct constituted interference. He said that he believed Mr. Boychuk intended to hit him as opposed to making a play on the puck. As a result, in order to protect himself from injury, Mr. Voracek said that he braced himself for the hit, and said that he did not lunge towards or into Mr. Boychuk.
While I accept Mr. Voracek’s explanation that he thought Mr. Boychuk was going to initiate a check, the video makes it clear that it was Mr. Voracek who initiated the contact. At the hearing, it was acknowledged that Mr. Voracek had other options available to him, but instead Mr. Voracek moved into Mr. Boychuk’s path by taking a step to the left and driving upwards into Mr. Boychuk. The onus was on Mr. Voracek to avoid causing a significant blow to Mr. Boychuk’s head. The force was significant enough to cause Mr. Boychuk to require medical attention on the ice and he did not return for the balance of the game. It is worth acknowledging that during his long career in the NHL, Mr. Voracek has maintained a strong character and a clean record with no prior supplemental discipline history. However, that does not absolve Mr. Voracek of the responsibility to play this game in a safe manner in accordance with the applicable rules. Accordingly, the Department of Player Safety’s decision to suspend Mr. Voracek is supported by clear and convincing evidence and is affirmed.
Voracek is eligible to return to action on Friday when the Flyers visit Toronto to take on the Maple Leafs.
He forfeits $88,709.68 as a result of the suspension.