Whatever the Moncton Wildcats' Ross Johnston meant to do with his stick when he broke the Halifax Mooseheads' Brian Lovell's jaw on Saturday, he wasn't in control of it.
Was this intentional or incidental? It happened so fast that none of the four on-ice officials in the game between QMJHL Maritimes Division rivals called a penalty, but the Mooseheads video crew caught it and the clip went viral. After bumping along the boards at the Halifax Metro Centre, the tip of the 19-year-old Johnston's stickblade appeared to get caught between the plexiglass and one of the steel dividers. As Lovell rose from the ice, Johnston yanked his stick loose and his follow-through swing connected with the Mooseheads defenceman's jaw.
Johnston has been suspended indefinitely.
— Stephane Leroux (@StephRDSJunior) February 19, 2013
The suspension could be lengthy. Johnston, a 19-year-old left wing from Charlottetown, P.E.I., deserves a chance to walk through his actions frame-by-frame when he and the Wildcats present their case to the Quebec League office. In less time than it will take to read this sentence, Lowell lost his balance and fell to the ice. Johnston's attention was diverted by his stick being stuck and the 6-foot-5, 230-pound forward forcefully yanked it loose, only to swing it and seriously injure his opponent.
A suspension that covers the Wildcats' 13 remaining regular-season games and might carry into the post-season might be an easy call for the QMJHL. At the same it, it shouldn't be reactionary. The league needs to hear from those who saw it in real time.
Steve Carr, Halifax's radio analyst, noted this could have been incidental.
Although I don't believe there was intent on Ross Johnston's part, u have to be in control of your stick at all times. I agree w/ suspension
— Steve Carr (@scarr15) February 19, 2013
The QMJHL is not known for giving out long suspensions like its counterpart in Central Canada; the longest ban this season was the seven-game sitdown the Chicoutimi Saguenéens' Elliot Bisson received in November for "a gratuitous blow to the face." There is an argument this could have been avoided, but the freak-occurence aspect to it, namely Johnston's stick being stuck. It has also gone viral and there's been an outcry because of the refs' no-call, but the QMJHL should block that out.
The action should always be punished more than the damage when it comes to supplemental discipline. Halifax, meantime, will not have Lovell in the lineup for the rest of the regular season and perhaps on into the playoffs. Any argument that he is a mere rookie seventh defenceman is beside the point, since every player's physical welfare should matter.
Coach Ducharme also reports that Brian Lovell's surgery went well and he will miss 4-6 weeks.
— Willy Palov (@CH_WillyPalov) February 18, 2013
Lovell, a 17-year-old from Châteauguay, Que., had scored his first QMJHL goal just one game earlier. He has rotated in and out of the Mooseheads defence corps all season; it's a shame his progress has been interrupted.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org (video: Halifax Mooseheads).