The NHL has suspended Florida Panthers defenceman Mike Matheson two games for “interference and unsportsmanlike conduct” for his contact with Vancouver Canucks forward Elias Pettersson.
The incident took place Saturday during the third period of Vancouver’s 3-2 win over the Panthers. Matheson took Pettersson hard into the boards and then slammed him into the ice. No penalty was called on the play.
The Canucks rookie was woozy and had trouble getting up. He was entered into concussion protocol and the team confirmed that the 19-year-old is indeed suffering a concussion. He will miss at least the next two games.
As with most of these incidents and suspensions, there is some sort of debate. It usually ranges along the lines of whether or not something is a “hockey play.”
But the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is pretty clear here.
“What causes this incident to rise to the level of supplemental discipline is that it encompasses two separate and distinct acts,” says the Department. “First, Matheson pins Pettersson to the boards in a legal and effective defensive maneuver. Then with the puck long separated from the area and Pettersson unable to defend himself, Matheson drives him directly downward and into the ice with force, causing an injury.”
To repeat: there is nothing wrong or illegal about the initial contact. There is nothing wrong with it from the perspective of making a hockey play OR from the perspective of “welcoming a skilled rookie” to the NHL or whatever such nonsense people like to talk about.
But throwing him to the ice afterward, with the puck long gone, is not a hockey play at all. It is akin to a wrestling finishing move and that has no place in the game.
The two-game suspension is on target. Matheson has had no run-ins with the Department of Player Safety thus far and let things get out of hand. The ban is sufficient to get the job done and sends the right message.
In the meantime, here’s hoping Pettersson is okay and gets back to playing in Vancouver soon. The team is also without Jay Beagle, who’ll miss about six weeks with a broken forearm after blocking a shot during that same Panthers game.