In a monumental decision today, the NHL has apparently declared open-season on goaltenders. GM’s everywhere better take notice. As long as the offending player who injures your goalie provides the correct answers regarding intent, he can be let off the hook.
Brendan Shanahan, NHL senior vice-president of player safety and hockey operations, held a hearing via conference call with Milan Lucic of the Boston Bruins at 1pm today and decided no further penalty was required for his obvious bulldozing hit against Sabres goalie Ryan Miller on Saturday in Boston. The play occured after Miller came out of his crease and into the faceoff circle to sweep away the puck, prior to Lucic arriving there at full speed. Lucic made absolutely no attempt to avoid the collision, and in the picture above, it definitely appears that he followed through with his check. The play sent Miller’s helmet flying in the air, and the goaltender was removed from the game later due to concussion symptoms.
“I had the hearing because I did make an initial assessment of the play as I do with all plays, but I did have some questions for Milan and I wanted to hear directly from him,” Shanahan told NHL.com. “They were regarding his intent; at what point did he know there was going to be a collision; and whether or not he felt he had the time to avoid the collision. I was satisfied with his answers.”
Shanahan said the minor penalty for charging was the proper call in this case because it follows Rule 42.1, which reads “a goalkeeper is not fair game just because he is outside the goal crease area.”
“The minor penalty called on the ice was the correct call,” Shanahan said. “And, while it’s unfortunate that Miller was hurt I saw nothing egregious about this hit that would elevate it to supplemental discipline.”
Shanahan took into consideration Patrick Kaleta’s “previous offender” status when he suspended Kaleta for 4 games recently. Lucic is also a previous offender, who avoided suspension previously. Apparently, the previous incident had no bearing on this decision. It may be unfortunate that Miller was injured on the play, but I was under the impression that the league was trying to move towards eliminating “dirty” hits and plays that such as the one involving Lucic and Miller that result in injuries. The main face and biggest star of the league, Sidney Crosby, has been out for 11 months now as a result of a concussion sustained during gameplay. Miller, who became the face of U.S. Hockey for his play in the 2010 Olympics, and remains regarded as one of the NHL’s top players and elite goalies, is now out. The league has unfortunately sent a message today that it is perfectly fine for its star goalies to be purposely trucked over.
So, who will be next? If the league is not going to consistently police its players, the players will need to police themselves.
According to Shanahan, Lucic provided the correct answers and responses during their conference call, when questioned about his intent and awareness during the play. I wonder if those responses matched those I saw of Lucic grinning all the way to the penalty box, and the similar images of Lucic smirking when being questioned about the play during the post-game interviews?