Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar has been suspended for one game for interference against Seattle Kraken forward Jared McCann.
Makar delivered the questionable hit with 8:24 remaining in the first period. McCann moved in on a shorthanded breakaway against Avs goaltender Alexandar Georgiev. The shot was stopped, with the puck deflecting out of play.
The Colorado blueliner gave McCann a light shove in the back before driving him solidly into the boards.
The hit itself appeard legal. The issue was that McCann – with the puck well out of play – was not eligible to be checked on the play. This is interference. From Rule 56:
A minor penalty for interference shall be imposed on a player who interferes with or impedes the progress of an opponent who is not in possession of the puck;
The Referee, at his discretion, may assess a major penalty, based on the degree of violence, to a player guilty of
interfering with an opponent. When a major penalty is imposed under this rule for a foul resulting in an injury of an opponent, a game misconduct shall be imposed.
The officials discussed the play before calling it a major penalty for interference. The call allowed for a video review, after which referees Eric Furlatt and Trevor Hanson downgraded it to a minor penalty for interference.
McCann was injured on the play. He is expected to be out of the lineup for Wednesday’s Game 5.
“I believe the puck is being caught by a fan as [McCann] is being run into the end wall,” Hakstol told ESPN. “Late hit. Really late. No puck in play. Like I said, our 40-goal scorer was not available for the rest of the game and not going to be available going forward here.”
ESPN reported that the officials explained to Hakstol that the penalty was downgraded to a minor because the puck was still in play.
“I disagree with that obviously,” Hakstol added. “I disagree with that assessment, whether that’s by the refs or by Toronto. That’s not an accurate description of the play.”
Player Safety also appeared to disagree, handing out a one-game suspension.
Here’s the official ruling:
As the video shows, McCann takes a pass from a teammate that springs him out of shorthanded offensive chance with Makar pursuing from behind. McCann takes a shot which is saved by the goaltender and ricochets up and out of play after the shot. Makar lightly pushes McCann with his right arm. As he skates over the goal line, the players disengage and skate into the corner. Now significantly after McCann had released the shot, Makar delivers a shoulder check on McCann that puts him into the boards, causing him to fall to the ice and causing an injury. This is interference.
It is important to note that McCann is in no way eligible to be checked on this play Makar finishes. This hit well outside the allowable window for finishing a check. In addition, it is clear that Makar knows McCann is not in possession of the park when he decides to deliver this hit.
While we have heard Makar’s assertion that he assumed that the puck would bounce into the corner and the play would continue, the onus is on Makar to ensure this occurs before initiating contact. The result of this play is a body check to a vulnerable player who is not eligible to be hit that causes an injury.
“It’s unfortunate. I never want to injure guys,” Makar said. “Hopefully he’s all right. … I didn’t feel like I tried to finish him that hard. I feel like if I was in that scenario, they would have done the exact same thing. I’m not trying to hurt anybody. It’s just unfortunate, tough bounce there. They got the call right, and that’s all you can ask for…. Unfortunate circumstances and I hope he’s all right.”
McCann will miss Game 5. Now, so will Makar.
The Kraken won the game 3-2 in overtime. Officials were referees Eric Furlatt (#27) and Trevor Hanson (#14) with linesmen Jonny Murray (#95) and Travis Gawryletz (#67).
Makar forfeits no salary as a result of his ban, as players are not paid during the postseason.
This is the fourth disciplinary action of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs by Player Safety. Toronto’s Michael Bunting was suspended three games for interference and an illegal check to the head. Fines have been handed out to both Florida’s Matthew Tkachuk and Toronto’s Sam Lafferty.