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Jordan Nolan of the Los Angeles Kings won’t be suspended for his hit on Rusty Klesla of the Phoenix Coyotes on Monday night, the NHL has announced. As usual, there’s massive disagreement regarding this decision, which reinforced one thing:
The NHL can’t win an argument against stretchers.
A player is taken out on one after a devastating hit, and the legality of that hit is settled for many by the sheer presence of a stretcher. Look no further than Eric Gryba of the Ottawa Senators getting suspended after bloodying Lars Eller of the Montreal Canadiens. Eller left on a stretcher; Gryba, for what amounted to an illegal but not suspendable hit – was banned for two playoff games.
On Monday night in an exhibition game, Klesla, a defenseman, was leveled by Nolan on a hit that saw the Coyote leave the ice on a stretcher as he gave a thumbs-up to fans. Klesla did not return to the game, and was “experiencing concussion/whiplash symptoms” on Tuesday while resting at home.
The NHL received footage of the hit from an in-house camera feed – the game wasn’t televised – and reviewed it on Tuesday.
What it found, according to Shanahan, was a hit in which Nolan leads with his shoulder, wasn’t late and one in which he hits “squarely through the body and does not” target the head.
It’s the kind of open-ice hit the NHL wants in the game, despite its at times draconian crackdown on hits that involve the head. And, frankly, it’s the kind of hit that’s unavoidable in a game played at this speed, with opponents who drop their heads to play the puck. Not blaming Klesla; just a fact.
You might feel Nolan launches into the hit, or hits him high. But for all the drama over Rule 48 being too all-encompassing and penalizing borderline hits based more on aesthetics and politics than the hit itself, the NHL got this one right.
Although one wonders what the reaction would have been if the stretcher was wheeled out in the playoffs, like it was for Eller.