Dallas Stars forward Jamie Benn has ben suspended two games games for cross-checking Mark Stone of the Vegas Golden Knights.
Benn’s infraction came less than two minutes into Game 3 of the Western Conference Final on Tuesday night. While clearing the puck up ice, Benn braced for contact and delivered a legal reverse hit, knocking Stone to the ice. He then delivered a not-so-legal downward cross-check directed at Stone’s head and neck.
The Dallas captain was assessed a major penalty, along with a game misconduct, by referees Steve Kozari and Chris Lee. The officials reviewed the hit, confirming the call and ending Benn’s night.
Stone, who was not injured on the play, remained on the ice for the start of the power play.
The NHL’s Department of Player Safety, calling the cross-check “unnecessarily dangerous”, hit Benn with a two-game ban. From Player Safety:
“As the video shows, Stone pursues the puck through the neutral zone and looks to engage as he closes the gap. Benn chips the puck up the wall, then attempts to jump around Stone, sending him to the ice in the process. With Stone on the ice in front of him, Benn puts both hands on his stick, drops to his knees, and drives his stick into the head and neck area of Stone with force. This is cross-checking.”
“It is important to note that Benn is in control of this play at all times and makes the decision to deliver a forceful cross-check to a prone player. This is simply an unnecessarily dangerous decision by Benn and it is delivered with sufficient intent and force to merit supplemental discipline.”
Player Safety does not consider the on-ice call nor the time of the penalty in determining suspension length. Benn doesn’t get ‘credit’ for one game towards his ban simply because the incident happened early in Game 3.
While Benn has been fined four times, this is his first suspension. He’ll miss the Stars’ next two games; if they’re eliminated by Vegas in Game 4, that will carry over to the Stars’ 2023-24 regular season opener.
Benn forfeits no salary for missing playoff games; he will get a pay cut if this carries into next season.
Benn Speaks Out About the Hit
While Benn left Game 3 without speaking with the media, he addressed the hit on Wednesday, prior to Player Safety’s verdict.
“Just an unfortunate play,” Benn said. “I think I just need to be more responsible with my body and my stick. I put my team in a tough situation. It was my first shift of a game on home ice when you’re pretty jacked up, down 1-0, so you want to try and get your team going. Emotions are high.”
“Obviously didn’t want to take a five minute penalty. The game happens fast. Emotions are high.”
“Obviously would’ve liked to not fall on him [and] use my stick as a landing point.”
Obviously that’s not what happened.
NHL Rule 59: Cross-Checking
The NHL rulebook covers cross-checking in Rule 59:
Cross-checking [is defined as] the action of using the shaft of the stick between the two hands to forcefully check an opponent.
A minor penalty, at the discretion of the Referee based on the severity of the contact, shall be imposed on a player
who “cross checks” an opponent.
A major penalty, at the discretion of the Referee based on the severity of the contact, shall be imposed on a player
who “cross checks” an opponent. When a major penalty is assessed for cross-checking, an automatic game misconduct penalty shall be imposed on the offending player.
The Referee, at his discretion, may assess a match penalty if, in his judgment, the player attempted to or deliberately injured his opponent by cross-checking.
As we stated previously, it’s hard to argue that this wasn’t an intent to injure, when Benn cross-checked a player in the head who was lying prone on the ice. The in-game impact, though, would’ve been the same: a five-minute power play, and an ejection for Benn.
More Player Safety Action
The Stars captain was the second player to receive disciplinary action for an incident in Tuesday’s game, both of which came against Vegas captain Mark Stone. Dallas center Max Domi has also been fined for slashing Stone.
This is the first time in at least the past decade where Player Safety has taken action on two incidents from the same game against the same player.
Benn’s ejection was the earliest game misconduct handed out in over forty years. Way back in 1982, the New York Rangers’ Ron Duguay and Bob Hoffmeyer of the Philadelphia Flyers were both given the gate 1:44 into the game.
The Vegas Golden Knights went on to win the game 4-0 to take a three-games-to-none lead in the best-of-seven series. Referees for the game were Steve Kozari (#40) and Chris Lee (#28), with linesmen Brad Kovachik (#71) and Bevan Mills (#53).