The first suspension has come down after a series of violent events marred Saturday night’s game between Boston and Pittsburgh.
The NHL’s Department of Player Safety on Monday suspended Penguins forward James Neal five games for kneeing Boston’s Brad Marchand in the head.
The decision must have come as a huge surprise to Neal, who, after the game, claimed no ill intent. “I need to be more careful and I guess get my knee out of the way, but I’m not trying to hit him in the head or injure him or anything like that,” he said.
But league safety czar Brendan Shanahan, displaying no evidence of having fallen off a turnip truck recently, wasn’t buying Neal’s golly-gee act.
“With a clear view of Marchand and plenty of time to avoid him, Neal skates directly through Marchand’s head with his left knee,” Shanahan explains in the league’s suspension video. “This is more serious than simply not avoiding contact with a fallen player. Neal turns his skates and extends his left leg, ensuring contact is made with Marchand’s head.”
A five-game suspension is the longest Neal could have received with a phone hearing, and the speed with which it was delivered suggests Shanahan didn’t see a lot of room for interpretation on the call.