ESPN's Pierre LeBrun Tweeted yesterday that Tom Kostopoulos(notes) of the Calgary Flames waived his right to an in-person hearing after his brutal hit on Detroit Red Wings defenseman Brad Stuart(notes) last night, saying he expected at least a five-game suspension.
LeBrun was right and the NHL announced this afternoon that Kostopoulos has been suspended for six games and will forfeit $29,569.92 in salary for his blow to the head of Stuart.
Via the NHL, here's Colin Campbell explaining his decision:
"A number of factors were considered in reaching this decision," said NHL Senior Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell. "Kostopoulos delivered a blow to the head of an unsuspecting and vulnerable player. As well, he targeted the head of his opponent and, while the hit was not from the blindside, the head was the principle point of contact. The fact that Brad Stuart was not in possession of the puck when the blow was delivered and the serious nature of the player's injury were also considered in my decision."
Because Kostopoulos was last suspended over 18 months ago (Nov. 2008) for a hit from behind on Mike Van Ryn(notes) of the Toronto Maple Leafs, he was no longer considered a "repeat" offender in the eyes of the NHL.
Here's the hit that drew the six-game ban:
Because Stuart will miss the next six-to-eight weeks, Campbell factored that into the suspension length for Kostopoulos, so maybe it would have been three or four had Stuart not been injured. Is that how the NHL wants to approach taking head shots out of the game?
If the League (and NHLPA, for that matter) is serious about concussions and protecting the well-being of its players, then a guy like Kostopoulos -- and others who commit headshots -- need to be made examples of, even if the player is a first time offender, or in this case, a born-again first time offender.
For a great take on why the PA should become more involved in these matters, check out Mike Chen's post from yesterday.
UPDATE: Both Flames GM Jay Feaster and Kostopoulos issued statements in response to the suspension.
“We strongly disagree, not only with the length of the suspension, but also with the fact that Tom was suspended," said Jay Feaster, acting general manager of the Flames.
"While we are sorry the player was injured, we maintained in the hearing the hit was a legal check. The player was batting at the puck and Tom hit him in the chest and finished his check through him.
He did not target the head, and we do not believe the head was the initial point of contact. We respect the difficult job Colin Campbell has to do in these situations, and we appreciate the opportunity we were afforded to present our case; however, we simply do not agree with the decision.”
“I’m extremely disappointed in the League’s ruling as I believe I have not done anything illegal," said Kostopoulos. "I’m sorry that Brad was hurt on the play and I hope he returns to play soon, but it was never my intention to injure him and I definitely did not target the head. I maintain that I delivered a legal check to an opponent playing the puck. While I am upset with the League’s decision, I will serve the suspension in preparation for my return to the line-up to help my team.”
- Brad Stuart