The boarding penalty in the NHL is unique in that it specifically measures the result of a hit rather than the hit itself; it’s not just the reckless nature of the initial check that’s evaluated but how it “causes the opponent to hit or impact the boards violently or dangerously.”
Maxim Lapierre of the St. Louis Blues was suspended on Friday for five games for hitting San Jose Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle from behind and putting him on a stretcher on Tuesday night. While Department of Player Safety boss Brendan Shanahan said that the forearm to the shoulder blades wasn’t “an overly violent check,” the impact was, and the aftermath was considerably violent.
Here’s the NHL’s explanation:
From the NHL:
Under the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement and, based on his average annual salary, Lapierre will forfeit $28,205.15. The money goes to the Players' Emergency Assistance Fund.
The incident occurred at 5:22 of the first period. Lapierre was assessed a major penalty for checking from behind and a game misconduct.
Lapierre already has served one game of this suspension while awaiting an in-person hearing that was convened this afternoon.
One thing to keep in mind: Lapierre isn’t a repeat offender as far as money lost is concerned, but the Department of Player Safety has always used a player’s suspension history in its decision whether or not to suspend. And that 2010 boarding suspension on Lapierre was considered.
“There are many things to consider on this play,” said Shanahan. “It’s undeniable that Boyle’s loss of balance just prior to the contact made him much more vulnerable and contributed to the violent result. However, at no point does Lapierre see anything other than Boyle’s numbers, when he decides to finish him on this check.
“If Lapierre doesn’t hit him in the numbers, Boyle’s face does not crash violently into the boards.”
The explanation seems to point to a hockey play gone bad in a roundabout way. There’s nothing about intent – Lapierre’s alleged threats to the Sharks bench aren’t even mentioned – and a lot about his irresponsibility as a hitter, never wavering despite seeing Boyles numbers all the way through. This isn’t the head-hunting of Pat Kaleta on Jack Johnson, and shouldn’t be assessed the same way.
Five games is about right. I expected six, but that would have triggered a third-party appeals option, and perhaps with Kaleta already appealing, the NHL might be already wary of this.