The National Hockey League has suspended Toronto Maple Leafs forward Joffrey Lupul two games for his hit on Victor Hedman on Wednesday night. Lupul was penalized on the play. You can see the hit here.
“By no means did I go after him and try and hit him in the head,” Lupul said after the game.
Unfortunately, the league didn’t agree. The NHL suspended Lupul for two games after determining that he “recklessly targets” the head of the Tampa Bay Lightning defenceman.
According to the video explanation from the NHL’s Department of Player Safety, Lupul targets Hedman’s head as the principle point of contact “by elevating and making it the principle point of contact.” The clip highlights his raising of a leg in order to “elevate” as clear evidence of his targeting intention, a damnable factor in the whole suspension to be sure.
The suspension is Lupul’s first in his nine year career, so having little to no trouble with the law has to have factored in to the suspension as well.
Also a factor, the height of Hedman. The Lightning blueliner is 6’6, whereas Lupul is a full five inches shorter. Getting to the point of contact obviously requires a leap of some kind, although the Leaf didn’t “launch” himself into the play.
It was enough, however, that he “elevated.” Even if it feels like a ridiculous semantic game, the Department of Player Safety is very much looking for things like intent. When that intent can be demonstrated in instances like this, where it seems apparent that Lupul went the “extra mile” to target the head or at least increase the damage of the play, a suspension will probably be considered.
Hedman was fine on the player, despite being a little shocked. Had he not been, the suspension would’ve been doubled. And had Lupul had a history to contend with, the suspension would’ve been longer. He got away with one here, by all likelihood, but he won’t be so lucky if he does it again.
Lupul will forfeit $45,945.94 in salary to the Players’ Emergency Fund.