Edmonton Oilers forward Evander Kane was given a major penalty for boarding Colorado Avalanche center Nazem Kadri during Game 3 of the Western Conference Final.
The hit came just 1:06 into Saturday night’s game in Edmonton. Referees Wes McCauley and Eric Furlatt called a major penalty on the hit, which was confirmed via video review.
Kadri remained down on the ice, where he was attended to by the Colorado medical staff. He was able to leave the ice under his own power. Kadri did not return to the game, and is questionable for the remainder of the series.
While McCauley and Furlatt were good on the major, the boarding rule requires a mandatory game misconduct for a head injury on the play. Here’s Rule 41:
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. However, in determining whether such contact could have been avoided, the circumstances of the check, including whether the opponent put himself in a vulnerable position immediately prior to or simultaneously with the check or whether the check was unavoidable can be considered. This balance must be considered by the Referees when applying this rule.
The Referee, at his discretion, may assess a major penalty, based on the degree of violence of the impact with the boards, to a player guilty of boarding an opponent. When a major penalty is imposed under this rule for a foul resulting in an injury to the face or head of an opponent, a game misconduct shall be imposed.
The Referee, at his discretion, may assess a match penalty if, in his judgment, the player attempted to or deliberately injured his opponent by boarding.
It’s possible that McCauley and Furlatt were unaware of the severity or the specifics of Kadri’s injury, despite the immediate attention of the team medical trainer and Kadri’s departure. If Kadri’s injury was to the shoulder – not to the face or head – the game misconduct would no longer apply.
Kane discussed the penalty after the game.
“The puck went wide, dribbled into the corner and I know [Kadri] likes to reverse it,” Kane said. “I was just trying to get up on him and that’s really all I did. Unfortunately, he went into the boards awkwardly and hurt his hand, and that was unfortunate.”
Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog also addressed the Kane hit in his post-game.
“Kind of gives you the chills down your spine,” Landeskog said of the hit. “You’re taught from a young age that you don’t do that, especially that distance from the boards. It’s a dangerous play… I’m sure they’ll take a look at it. ”
There’s no question that the NHL’s Department of Player Safety will be taking a look. First, they’ll need to decide if the hit itself is a suspendable offense. Only then can they look to consider Kane’s history along with the injury to Kadri.
Kane has been suspended by the NHL five times, most recently a 21-game ban for violating league COVID protocols. His prior offenses were a bit more physical. Kane sat for two games for boarding in 2014, one playoff game for an illegal check in 2019, three games for abuse of officials in 2019, and three games for elbowing in 2020. He was also suspended one game by the Buffalo Sabres for violating team rules.