The Colorado Avalanche were frustrated after a hit that injured defenseman Cale Makar went unpenalized. That same hit avoided any further disciplinary action from the NHL’s Department of Player Safety.

Pittsburgh Penguins forward Jeff Carter caught Makar up high with his shoulder late in Tuesday’s game.  Play continued until the Avs touched the puck, with Makar batting it from down on his knees.


Makar headed off the ice. Carter headed to the bench.

There was no penalty called on the play by referees Gord Dwyer and Carter Sandlak.  With no major or match penalty call on the ice, the play was not eligible for a video review.

“Pretty blindside,” Makar called the hit.  The Avs’ broadcast team agreed.

“You cannot direct head-hit a player at any time, especially on the blindside like that,” claimed Mark Rycroft on the Avs’ broadcast. That’s not exactly true.

The NHL removed the ‘blindside’ language from the rule regarding Illegal Checks to the Head back in 2011. Additionally, there are situations where head contact is unavoidable on a play.

“(Carter) skated right through his head,” said Colorado head coach Jared Bednar.

There was no argument from the league there. That’s exactly what happened.  That’s also apparently why there was no call.

“The ref said apparently we ran into each other,” Makar said, as reported by The Athletic. “I don’t know how that’s possible. He was coming down the ice … Maybe he wasn’t looking, but it was straight to the side of my head.”


The rule for ‘Illegal checks to the head’ by definition, implies that there are legal checks to the head.  Here it is:

A hit resulting in contact with an opponent’s head where the head was the main point of contact and such contact to the head was avoidable is not permitted. In determining whether contact with an opponent’s head was avoidable, the circumstances of the hit including the following shall be considered:

(i) Whether the player attempted to hit squarely through the opponent’s body and the head was not “picked” as a result of poor timing, poor angle of approach, or unnecessary extension of the body upward or outward.

(ii) Whether the opponent put himself in a vulnerable position by assuming a posture that made head contact on an otherwise full body check unavoidable.

(iii) Whether the opponent materially changed the position of his body or head immediately prior to or simultaneously with the hit in a way that significantly contributed to the head contact.


The officials likely looked at this as an unintentional collision.  It does not appear that Carter delivered a check, but that he ‘skated right through’ Makar, as Bednar observed.

Makar’s turn to the left, thanks to the unpredictable bouncing puck, may have contributed to the contact, putting him right in Carter’s path.  The Pens forward had little time to change course or minimize contact.

It’s an unfortunate hit. No one wants to see a player injured, especially a top-tier talent like Makar.  Until the NHL rewrites the rulebook to make all head contact illegal, we’re going to have to accept these kinds of hits as part of the game.

Makar will miss the Avs’ next two games as a result of the head injury suffered on the play.


The Penguins went on to win the game 2-1 in overtime.  Referees were Gord Dwyer (#19) and Carter Sandlak (#47), with linesmen Derek Nansen (#70) and Jesse Marquis (#86).