Calgary Flames defenseman Rasmus Andersson has been suspended four games by NHL’s Department of Player Safety for a hit on Columbus Blue Jackets forward Patrik Laine.

Late in Friday’s game, trailing 3-1, Calgary pulled their goaltender for an extra attacker.  The puck made its way to Laine, who snapped a shot at the empty net.  Just as he released the puck, Andersson delivered a high, hard hit to the Columbus forward. 

Laine remained down on the ice as the horn sounded, but later left the ice under his own power. 

Andersson raises his left arm at the time of the hit, appearing to deliver an elbow to Laine. While the initial point of contact may have been the shoulder, raising the elbow results in head contact on the play that is otherwise avoidable. 

Elbowing shall mean the use of an extended elbow in a manner that may or may not cause injury.

A major penalty, at the discretion of the Referee, shall be imposed on any player who uses his elbow to illegally check an opponent. A major penalty must be imposed under this rule for an infraction resulting in an injury to the face or head of an opponent.

When a major penalty is imposed under this rule for an infraction resulting in an injury to the face or head of an opponent, a game misconduct penalty shall also be imposed.

Referees Kelly Sutherland and Peter MacDougall called a major penalty for elbowing on the play along with a game misconduct, which looks like a good call. You can clearly see the Flames blueliner extending his left elbow to make contact with Laine’s shoulder and head.

The NHL’s Department of Player Safety reviewed the play and went with charging. 

A minor or major penalty shall be imposed on a player who skates, jumps into or charges an opponent in any manner.

Here’s the ruling from the league:

Friday night in Columbus, Flames defenseman Rasmus Andersson was assessed a major penalty and a game misconduct for launching into a high, hard check delivered to Blue Jackets forward Patrik Laine that made significant head contact causing an injury.

As the video shows, with seconds left in the game with the score out of reach, Laine collects the puck from a teammate as Andersson tracks from the neutral zone. As Laine sends the puck down the ice towards the empty net, Anderson launches upward into Laine, elevating unnecessarily and making significant contact to Laine’s head with his elbow causing an injury. This is charging.

It is important to note that while we acknowledge Andersson’s argument that Laine is low as he sends the puck down the ice, this is not a case in which a sudden movement by Laine turns an otherwise legal check into an illegal one. Laine is low as Andersson approaches the hit and Andersson still chooses to elevate into the head, launching off the ice through contact rather than staying low and making contact with Laine’s core. It is this unnecessary upward movement that causes Andersson’s elbow to drive into Laine’s head with force.

This launch, the force of the hit, and the game circumstances under which the hit was thrown combined to elevate this hit to the level of supplemental discipline. 

Note that Laine’s body position – on the follow-through of the shot – contributes to the head contact on this play, as Player Safety notes. Rule 48, for Illegal Checks to the Head, considers the following:

(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.


Laine did not travel with the team and will miss tonight’s game against the Wild; he is currently day-to-day.

The Flames plan to appeal the ruling

Any appeal will be heard exclusively by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman since the suspension was fewer than six games.  The CBA spells out the process:

18.12 Appeal to Commissioner. The NHLPA, on the Player’s behalf, may file an appeal to the Commissioner of any decision regarding Supplementary Discipline for On-Ice Conduct imposed by the League. The appeal shall be filed in writing no later than forty-eight (48) hours after the League’s notification to the NHLPA of its determination. If the term of the suspension is ongoing, the Player shall remain suspended pending the appeal (but not longer than the duration contained in the initial decision).

The Commissioner shall endeavor to hear all appeals on an expedited basis and will determine whether the decision was supported by clear and convincing evidence. In the event the League’s underlying decision results in a suspension of five (5) NHL Games or less, the Commissioner shall determine in his sole discretion whether any type of hearing is required related to such review, and if he determines such a hearing is required, whether to hold a telephonic or in-person hearing. …  

The Commissioner shall have the authority to consider any evidence relating to the incident even if such evidence was not available at the time of the initial Supplementary Discipline for On-Ice Conduct decision. Except in cases involving a suspension of six (6) or more NHL Games which shall be subject to an appeal pursuant to Section 18.13 below, the decision of the Commissioner in an appeal shall be final and binding in all respects and not subject to review. …

The Commissioner’s decision shall represent the complete and final decision of the League regarding whether the Player’s conduct violated League Playing Rules, as well as the length of the suspension imposed on the Player. 


Andersson forfeits $94,791.68 in salary as a result of the suspension.  He is eligible to return to the Flames’ lineup when they face the Dallas Stars on November 1.