Matt Bartkowski’s hit on Brian Gionta on Sunday was one of those moments when you wonder how it couldn’t be a suspension.
The velocity of the contact. The way the Buffalo Sabres forward's head flew back, before his body tumbled into the air, skates over shoulders, and he face-planted on the ice. The fact that he didn’t have possession of the puck, and the fact that the hit was so heinous that the on-ice officials handed him a five-minute major for interference and a game misconduct. And the fact that Gionta was injured.
And yet, from the NHL on Monday: No hearing. No fine. No suspension.
According to the League, this was an attempt at a full body check from the Boston Bruins defenseman. The main point of contact was the shoulder; while the head rocked back, the League contends it was from the jolt of the check and not because Bartkowski’s hit principally connected with it.
Looking at it again, there’s also some question about whether this hit should have been a major at all. Gionta touches the puck – was that enough to give him some semblance of “possession” before Bartkowski railroaded him, i.e. was he “eligible to be hit”?
He lunges for the puck on a suicide pass from a teammate; his prone position contributed to the injurious nature of the check. It’s not victim blaming to say he was in a vulnerable spot because of his body position; it’s just the circumstances behind the hit.
If there wasn’t significant contact with the head, I’m OK with there being no supplemental discipline. And even if you still think this is textbook interference, not every catastrophic penalty on the ice requires supplemental discipline off the ice.
With that, Sabres fans, please return to your seething anger that the NHL is working against you, a viewpoint previously reserved for Bruins fans.