Brad Marchand of the Boston Bruins has said of his clipping-penalized hit on Sami Salo of the Vancouver Canucks: "If that's an illegal hit, I'll take that out of my game."
Say goodbye to the self-defense hip-check, Mr. Marchand. The NHL and Dept. of Player Safety head Brendan Shanahan suspended the Bruins forward for five games on Monday, citing Salo's concussion, Marchand's previous run-ins with the NHL and their belief that there was nothing defensive about the hit:
Do you agree or disagree with five games for Brad Marchand?
From the NHL:
Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand has been suspended for five games and will forfeit $152,439.02 for clipping Vancouver Canucks defenseman Sami Salo during NHL Game #598 in Boston on Saturday, Jan. 7, the National Hockey League's Department of Player Safety announced today.
Marchand, who received a two-game suspension in March 2011, is classified as a repeat offender under the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Accordingly, he forfeits his salary based on the number of games in the season (82), rather than the number of days (185). The money goes to the Players' Emergency Assistance Fund.
The incident occurred at 18:47 of the second period. Marchand received a major penalty for clipping and a game misconduct.
Marchand will miss games Jan. 10 vs. Winnipeg, Jan. 12 vs. Montreal, Jan. 14 at Carolina, Jan. 16 at Florida and Jan. 17 at Tampa Bay. He will be eligible to return Jan. 19 at New Jersey.
Here is Shanahan's explanation for the video impaired:
"Marchand skates towards Salo along the boards. Rather than delivering a shoulder-to-shoulder check, Marchand drops down dangerously low into Salo's knee area, lifting Salo up and over to cause an injury."
… "While we understand that in certain circumstances, a player may duck or bail instinctively in order to protect himself from an imminent, dangerous check, we do not view this play as defensive or instinctive. Rather, we feel this is a predatory, low hit delivered intentionally by Marchand in order to flip his opponent over him.
"Further, Salo is not coming at Marchand with great speed or with a threatening posture. He does nothing to indicate that Marchand is about to be hit illegally or with excessive force. To be clear, we do not consider this to be a defensive act where there are no other options available to Marchand.
"As a matter of fact, the exact scenario played out 16 seconds earlier, as Marchand was able to deliver and absorb a clean shoulder to shoulder check to Salo. While this hit was a clean play, Marchand shows clear frustration. That may have led Marchand to believe that Salo might seek retribution, that is not a defense for clipping a player."
Again, you have to respect the job the NHL and Shanahan do with these videos. They clearly show it was a clip, as Marchand went for the knees. They clearly show Salo wasn't attacking Marchand in a "predatory" manner, but that one could safely assume Marchand was approaching Salo in such a manner. They show the interactions between the two seconds earlier (although, again, Marchand could claim he was concerned about the second hit after he had a go at Salo earlier in the shift).
But more to the point: They're clearly attempting to draw the line between what Marchand did here and what he did against Daniel Sedin during the 2011 Stanley Cup Final and what a player like Mike Richards did in defending himself with an elbow when Pat Kaleta ran him last season.
There still is room for questionable reactions to illegal attempts to injure. They just don't see Marchand having been in that situation, despite the case stated by the Bruins and the player.
Five games is five more than I would have given him. I saw it as an attempt at a hip check that missed the mark. It's something he's done before.
Maybe's the Neanderthallic, Scott Stevens fanboy approach to the play; but when I heard five-game suspension, I think about Rene Bourque chicken-winging Nicklas Backstrom. I don't think about this play — and I'm also not suspending to the injury, but understand why the NHL does.
Shanahan's explanation was completely reasonable. The punishment was well-argued. We just see the play differently, and would have left it at a game misconduct.
But for all you predatory hip-checkers in the NHL — what, all five or six of you left? — the bar is set.