In overtime on Saturday night, Jamie Benn of the Dallas Stars was carrying the puck through the neutral zone when Matt Cooke of the Minnesota Wild lined him up.
Benn lost the puck and delivered an elbow to the upper body of Cooke as he went through him. There was no penalty on the play, despite Cooke’s protest.
So will the NHL step in to do what the referees didn’t do on this play?
No, according to Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News, who reports that there’s no hearing for Benn and that with the Stars back in action on Monday, he doesn’t expect there will be one.
Heika’s theory is that Benn was making a protective, defensive play against Cooke, rather than a predatory one.
Yes, there is a difference. The NHL sees defensive plays as reactive rather than premeditated. It doesn’t mean these aren’t penalties – and it’s a total joke that Benn’s wasn’t – but under the current standards of player safety, a defensive hit like Benn’s isn’t subject to supplemental discipline.
It’s all explained in this recent video by the NHL on defensive contact to the head:
So if it’s not a hearing, it’ll be a strong warning to Benn and he’ll be on the watch list.
At least there’s some method to the madness, rather than simply having “because it’s Matt Cooke” as the reason.