The NHL’s Department of Player Safety has some explaining to do.
On Saturday, Columbus Blue Jackets forward Matt Calvert was given just a one-game suspension for viciously breaking his stick over the back/neck of Pittsburgh Penguins forward Tom Kuhnhackl late in Friday night’s 4-1 loss.
Calvert was given a two-minute penalty for the incident, largely inconsequential considering how little time was left in the game.
For such a brutal, blatant attempt to injure, fans and writers alike were confused with such a short suspension.
One-game suspension for Calvert is both:
a) kind of a joke &
b) more than I expected.
— Hannah Stuart 📎 (@HockeywthHannah) April 15, 2017
I tend to be more of a disciplinarian anyway; but the Calvert attack was gutless BS. One game is a joke. No place for it in the game.
— Rob McGregor (@RobMcGregor35) April 15, 2017
— Katie Caldwell (@katielauriss) April 15, 2017
No matter how you look at the play, Calvert’s thuggery should have warranted a much stiffer penalty.
First of all, Calvert didn’t attempt to make a hockey play. He retaliated on Kuhnhackl with 35 seconds left in the second game of the team’s playoffs series when the match was clearly out of reach. It’s horseshit. He got upset, smashed his stick over his opponent and ran Kuhnackl again when he was grimacing in pain.
Even notoriously hot-headed Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella wasn’t a fan of the play when attempting to justify the hit.
“These guys are competitive guys, and it’s a very emotional game. Sometimes you just kind of lose yourself a little bit,” Tortorella said. “Do I want that to happen? No. I don’t want to see that.”
Comparatively, the suspension is out of line with recent league decisions.
Earlier this month, Anaheim Ducks rookie Nik Ritchie received a two-game suspension for punching Michal Rozsival in the face after a teammate was hurt. Was the punch bad? Sure. But, is it worse than Calvert’s action? No.
Or, how about Ottawa Senators forward Mike Hoffman’s suspension back in December? He crosschecked San Jose Sharks forward Logan Couture in the head and received two games for it. Hoffman’s crosscheck was helped by Sharks defenseman Brenden Dillon stick, as it made a dirty hit a dangerous one. Is it worse than Calvert’s? No. At least, when factoring in intent.
Calvert should be out five to ten games. You can’t intentionally attempt to injure someone by breaking your stick and hitting them in a single swoop, all ways away from any action. What kind of message does that send fellow players in the league? That it’s OK to hurt opponents? It’s complete garbage. Next time, when something like this happens and someone gets hurt, the NHL has no one to blame but themselves.
One game is nothing in the grand scheme of things. Suspending Calvert longer would have sent the proper message. Instead, the NHL decided to be lenient when the book should have been thrown at the Blue Jackets forward.
Calvert’s lucky the hit wasn’t slightly higher and Kuhnhackl wasn’t hurt. Although, the Department of Player Safety is so inconsistent with suspensions, he might not even face any further discipline if that was the case.
At least, Calvert’s reputation has taken a hit. More of one than the league delivered to him.