When Joachim Blichfeld exited the ice after receiving a match penalty for his hit on Colorado Avalanche star Nathan MacKinnon on Wednesday, some figured the Sharks rookie might be due for a suspension from the NHL.
The league announced its ruling on Thursday, handing down a two-game suspension for Blichfeld.
In a video issued by the NHL’s Department of Player Safety (DoPS), the league ruled that MacKinnon’s head was the “main point of contact” on Blichfeld’s hit and that it was “avoidable.”
“While we accept Blichfeld’s assertion that he does not intentionally hit MacKinnon in the head,” the league said, “he takes an angle of approach that cuts along the front of MacKinnon’s body and makes the head the main point of contact, rather than one that solidly hits the near shoulder hips and core.”
Wednesday marked Blichfeld’s season debut and he played in just 5:21 before getting ejected from the contest for the hit. The 22-year-old played in four NHL games last season.
MacKinnon, meanwhile, is one of the stars of the NHL and caused some Sharks fans to wonder out loud (er, via Twitter) whether his star power and high visibility factored into NHL DoPS decision to hand down stiff punishment.
The DoPS has a tough job in judging close plays and has also been the target of frequent criticism over the years for inconsistent decisions. While Blichfeld’s teammates defended him, this ruling should not come as a surprise given the video evidence and league’s desire to eliminate head shots.