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The most important word uttered by NHL VP of Player Safety Brendan Shanahan(notes) in his video announcing the 3-game suspension of Mark Fistric(notes) of the Dallas Stars? "Charging."

The NHL suspended the Stars defenseman for three games for his hit on charging New York Islanders forward Nino Niederreiter(notes) last Saturday, costing Fistric $16,216.23. There was no penalty on the play. The NHL believes there should have been, based on Rule 42.1:

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

One of the defenses of Fistric was that his feet left the ice during the hit because of his momentum; "exploding" into the hit rather than leaping into it. Shanahan acknowledged that, and felt that the air he got on the jump was an indication that it wasn't simply part of the follow-through.

Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News wondered if this hit by Luke Schenn(notes) on Stars winger Tomas Vincour(notes) was comparable. We imagine the argument would be that Schenn left his feet because of the hit, not to make the hit.

One of the interesting aspects of this ruling: No head shot was defined. That's where the speculation immediately went, but it doesn't seem to be the determining factor. Perhaps they couldn't determine if the principal point of contact was the head. Also interesting: The concussion was factored in as a result of "an illegal hit," his head hitting the ice."

That said: Three games seems a bit much for a charge minus head contact.

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