Department of Player Safety : Consistently Inconsistent.


May 4, 2013; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Bruins left wing

Daniel Paille

(20) and Toronto Maple Leafs goalie

James Reimer

(34) hit against the boards during the second period in game two of the first round of the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Once has to wonder what exactly is going on at the Department of Player Safety. In two different circumstances, an attacking player strikes a player with the puck in the head. At the end of one scenario, the player struck suffered no injury and the game continued. (This hit warranted a suspension.) In the other scenario, the struck player had to be treated for a laceration to the head made by contact. (The striking player was not even brought up for supplemental discipline.)

I came out against the hit made by Andrew Ference on Mikhail Grabovski. That Grabovski suffered no injury was inconsequential to my ire. It was a deliberate hit to the head, and the DoPS was right to suspend him. I like Ference, and (for the most part) love his physicality on the ice.

So, lets take a look at Dion Phaneuf‘s hit on Daniel Paille. Phaneuf’s primary point of contact was the head. The only mitigating circumstance is that Phaneuf did not attempt to throw an elbow in the mix. In the video though, it is quite clear that Phaneuf was targeting Paille’s head. (Paille did not bow his head into the shot, like Eller did on the Gryba hit.)

Paille was incensed by the lack of the call, and he was fuming as he was being tended to by the open cut on his face.  Claude Julien was more circumspect, and he shared his opinion after the game.“We say this all the time: it’s stuff that the league takes care of. Our opinion doesn’t really matter, so I’ll leave it at that and move on because I think, right now, the focus has got to be on our team and how we have to be better next game, versus worrying about that stuff.”

So, is Rule 48 an actual law that is enforced or shall the NHL hand the player’s union a grievance on a plate when it comes time for the next lockout? Paille was hit in the head. Grabovski was hit in the head. In both cases, Ference and Phaneuf initiated contact and went for the head. In both cases, the referees missed the hit. (That’s another thing the NHL might want to take a look at.) However, in one case Shanahan decided to intervene on behalf of one team (Toronto), and chose to ignore violent contact on another (Boston). While I am a Bruins fan, and I have to acknowledge a level of bias in my writing, it is disturbing to see how a shot to the head requires stitches doesn’t seem to draw the ire of the department that is supposed to avoid these hits.

So I ask this of Brendan Shanahan and the Department of Player Safety. If you’re going to attempt to enforce the rules, a little uniformity would be appreciated from the fans of the National Hockey League.