Team Canada’s Adam Fantilli was ejected from Monday’s game against Norway at the IIHF World Championship for an illegal check to the head.
Fantilli’s foul came with 2:56 remaining in the second period, with Canada trailing 2-1. He delivered a high, hard hit on Norwegian defenseman Christian Kaasastul as the two players were battling for a loose puck.
While this may not have resulted in an ejection – or even a penalty – in the National Hockey League, there’s a very different standard in international play.
The IIHF’s rule around illegal checks to the head is far stricter than the NHL’s. From Rule 48:
There is no clean check to the head or neck. The Player delivering the hit must avoid hitting the opponent’s head or neck.
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. This rule supersedes all similar actions regarding hits to the head and neck.
When a Player is skating with their head up, whether they are in possession of the puck and may reasonably be expecting impending contact, an opponent does not have the right to hit them on the head or neck.
A Player who delivers a bodycheck to an opponent who is skating with the puck with their head down in the direction of the Player and does not use an upward motion or drive their body up into the opponent, shall not be penalized for an “illegal check to the head”.
A penalty for illegal checking to the head or neck will be assessed if one of the following occurs when a player checks an opponent:
(I) A Player who directs a hit of any sort, with any part of their body or equipment, to the head or neck of an opposing Player or drives or forces the head of an opposing Player into the protective glass or boards using any part of their upper body.
(II) A Player who extends and directs any part of their upper body to contact the head or neck of an opponent.
(III) A Player who extends their body upward or outward in order to reach their opponent or uses any part of the upper body to contact an opponent’s head or neck.
(IV) A Player who jumps (leaves their skates) to deliver a blow to the head or neck of an opponent.
In determining whether contact with an opponent’s head was avoidable, the circumstances of the hit including the following shall be considered:
(V) 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. If the primary force of a blow is initially to the body area and then contact slides up to the head or neck.
(VI) Whether the opponent put themself in a vulnerable position by assuming a posture that made head contact on an otherwise full body check unavoidable.
(VII) Whether the opponent materially changed the position of their body or head immediately prior to or simultaneously with the hit in a way that significantly contributed to the head contact.
Referees may issue either a minor penalty or a match penalty for this infraction.
The Referee, at their discretion, may assess a Match Penalty if, in their judgment, the Player recklessly endangers their opponent by an “illegal check to the head or neck”. 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.
Fantilli picked up a match, ending his night, which was confirmed via review.
The IIHF’s Disciplinary Committee will evaluate the play to determine if further action is required. If so, Fantilli would be the second Team Canada player to face supplemental discipline.
Canadian forward Joe Veleno, was suspended five games for stomping on the leg of Switzerland’s Nino Niederreiter.
Norway went on to defeat Canada 3-2 in a shootout, earning their first win of the tournament.
Referees for the game were Denmark’s Mads Frandsen #37 and Sean MacFarlane #11 of the United States; linesmen were Onni Hautamaki #59 of Finland and Slovakia’s Simon Synek #51.
Canada’s final round-robin game of the 2023 World Championship is Tuesday against Czechia — who sit one spot ahead of Canada in the Group B rankings.