Wild’s Charlie Coyle escapes suspension because hitting head isn’t targeting head

Minnesota Wild forward Charlie Coyle hit Matt Stajan’s head on Tuesday night with a check.

It wasn’t an “elbow”, as the on-ice officials puzzlingly termed it in handing Coyle a major penalty last night in the Wild’s 2-1 overtime win over the Calgary Flames. It was a late shoulder hit that connected with Stajan’s chest and chin, snapping the forward’s head back.

Was it a suspension-level event? No, according to Brendan Shanahan and the NHL.

Michael Russo of the Star-Tribune has the details:

Some were saying on Twitter last night that the check was a perfect example of Rule 48 – Illegal Check to the Head. But as is explicitly written in Rule 48 (a rule that some hockey writers have trouble grasping despite its adoption two years ago), the head must be BOTH targeted AND the principal point of contact.

According to the video, the principal point of contact in this case appeared to be Coyle’s shoulder to Stajan’s upper chest. While there is significant contact to Stajan’s chin after the fact, Coyle doesn’t go out of his way to hit the head and makes a full body check – two criteria the league uses when determining discipline.

Russo’s right that Coyle makes a full body check here, although whether or not the head was a principal point of contact is disputable.

What isn’t: That he didn’t target the head, which is something that likely would have resulted in some level of supplemental discipline here.

Left unsaid in this matter, although it was mentioned rampantly at the time of the incident: Stajan has the reputation of an embellisher, league-wide.

Not saying this was a factor in these matters for the NHL, mind you. Colin Campbell/Marc Savard was a different era …