Dustin Byfuglien suspended four games for dangerous crosscheck of J.T. Miller (Video)
Jets All-Star rover Dustin Byfuglien was suspended four games by the NHL’s Department of Player Safety for the below vicious crosscheck of Rangers forward J.T. Miller from a Tuesday game between New York and Winnipeg.
If you want synonyms of vicious, you can also use the words: barbarous, cruel, dangerous, ferocious and heinous. All would apply to Byfuglien’s decision to use a composite stick to almost crush Miller’s neck/head area. How Miller escaped any known injury is mind blowing.
The play, and the commentary via the NHL:
Four games for Big Buff seems a bit on the short side. When the NHL announced he would not be offered an in-person hearing, it meant he could not receive a suspension more than five games.
There were five games left in Winnipeg’s schedule, which made it seem that he would get that number. Instead, Byfuglien will be eligible to return for the Jets’ regular season finale against Calgary, which could determine Winnipeg’s playoff fate.
The Jets are two points clear of the Los Angeles Kings, but have played one more game and have three fewer regulation and overtime wins than LA.
The NHL says in the video that, “Byfuglien not only delivers an illegal blow, he does so with excessive force to an unprotected and vulnerable part of Miller’s upper body“ and “Miller is defenseless and out of the play by the time Byfuglien initiates contact.”
As for the explanation of the length and suspension, which as always comes at the end of the video, the NHL lists the fact that it was a crosscheck, there was no apparent injury, and Byfuglien has been fined three times in his career. He's going to lose $111,827.96 out of this suspension.
This is all true. And it’s hard to know how or why it happened the way it did at ice level – the force Byfuglien used to hit Miller and other mitigating factors. But it looked just horrible. Also, if Byfuglien is trying to clear out the crease (as defensemen are taught) there are simpler and less violent ways to do so.
There is a reasonably good argument that Byfuglien's hit on Miller constitutes the crime of assault. The hit is not something players agree to when they step on the ice. Rather, Byfuglien's cross-check clearly falls outside the scope of incidental contact in the game of hockey.
Byfuglien got lucky on this one. Miller came back to play the game and it does not appear as though he was seriously injured. That same hit could have conceivably delivered far more severe damage. Had that happened, this would look a lot different for Byfuglien.
Did the NHL get this right? Much of the online social groupthink appears to say no. Then again, there are always other on-ice circumstances involved in hearings and suspensions that we don’t see. But man … what a disgusting looking play.
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Josh Cooper is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @joshuacooper
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