Finland’s Petra Nieminen has been suspended one game for checking from behind during a game against Team Canada at the IIHF 2022 Women’s World Championship.
Nieminen hit Canada’s Kristin O’Neill from behind into the end boards while both were in pursuit of a loose puck. The hit came 4:30 into the first period of the opening game of the tournament for both teams. The Finnish She was given a major penalty and game misconduct by referees Nikoleta Celarova and Amanda Tassoni.
— TSN (@TSN_Sports) August 25, 2022
Canada’s Sarah Nurse scored the opening goal of the game on the ensuing power play.
The International Ice Hockey Federation took additional disciplinary action after the final horn. From the IIHF:
A formal hearing was held today in which the player explained that she did not intend to hit her opponent, Canada’s Kristin O’Neill, from behind while both players were chasing the puck during a Finnish power play, and that the player was able to continue the game.
The Disciplinary Panel determined that even though O’Neill must have been aware of the player behind her and Nieminen tried to slow down, the player should not have followed through with the check from behind, as the Canadian player would not have had the thought to have to prepare herself for any type of check. Everything happened at a high speed and the player had plenty of time to make another play.
Nieminen’s checking from behind recklessly endangered O’Neill.
For review, here’s the IIHF rule – formerly Rule 123, now Rule 43 – on checking from behind:
A check from behind is a check delivered to a vulnerable Player who is not aware of the impending hit, therefore unable to protect or defend themself from such a hit and contact is made on the back part of the body. A Player who hits an opponent from behind into the Boards, the Goal Net, or on open ice in any manner (i.e., high-sticking, crosschecking, etc.) shall be penalized according to this rule.
The Referee, at their discretion, shall assess a Major Penalty to a Player guilty of “checking from behind” an opponent, and who recklessly endangers the fouled Player. A Game Misconduct Penalty must be assessed anytime a Major Penalty is imposed for “Checking from Behind”
The Referee, at their discretion, may assess a Match Penalty if, in their judgment, the Player recklessly endangers their opponent by “checking from behind”. Such assessment of reckless endangerment shall be based on the severity of the infraction, severity of the contact, the degree of violence and the general reprehensibility involved.
‘General reprehensibility’ might be our new favorite rulebook phrase. Obviously, that didn’t come into play here. No reprehensibility, just reckless endangerment.
Canada went on to win the game 4-1.
Nieminen will miss Finland’s game against USA on August 27.