BOSTON – David Backes was understandably a little conflicted about the first suspension of his 12-year NHL career, but ultimately understood that it’s “the world we live in” at the NHL level when it comes to hits and head injuries.
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Red Wings forward Frans Nielsen has a suspected concussion after Backes' clipped him with a late hit as he skated by him in the Bruins' Tuesday night win over Detroit. Backes was handed a three-game suspension from the NHL on Wednesday afternoon. It was deemed “a forceful, high hit” by the NHL in addition to being very late. Those factors, combined with the injury, added up to three-game for a player with zero prior league discipline history in his 848-game NHL career.
Boston’s David Backes suspended three games for interference on Detroit’s Frans Nielsen. https://t.co/TaN0CGiY8v— NHL Player Safety (@NHLPlayerSafety) March 7, 2018
Backes was accepting of his fate after getting to say his piece with the league in a phone hearing on Wednesday afternoon, but it was also clear that he viewed things a little differently once the decision had been rendered.
"First and foremost the fact that Frans Nielsen is hurt sucks. I wasn't intending to hurt him,” said Backes. “I hope he has a quick and full recovery and he's back on the ice soon. It was certainly an unintended consequence to a play that was kind of an awkward, one-off kind of play. The decision is the decision, and that’s the way process is currently in the Collective Bargaining Agreement. You swallow it. There’s no real recourse and there’s no appeal process for a three-game suspension.
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“I think my agent did all the numbers and I’ve got something like 2,400 hits over 12 seasons. I’ve never even had a hearing, let alone a fine and let alone a suspension. I had one call maybe eight years ago from Brendan Shanahan when he was the head of player safety. He called to say ‘You’re being an idiot. Stop being an idiot.’ That seemed to be a pretty good reset for me. If we’re trying to teach a lesson or critique one out of 2,400 hits that I was trying to avoid, I don’t know how effective that is. It’s a small, little decimal if you do the division. But it’s where we’re at. It’s the situation we’re in. It’s the world we live in as the league likes to say a lot. It’s the world we live and we just have to move forward with what’s gone on.”
The Backes suspension follows the same track as the Andrew Cogliano suspension, where it appears the NHL is coming down hard on any late hits with head injuries, and in this case really looking to wipe out the late, unnecessary hits like Backes against Nielsen.
With Backes out of the lineup on Thursday night against the Flyers, Tommy Wingels will step in and center the third-line between Danton Heinen and Brian Gionta. It will be similar for the Bruins to the early-season stretch when they went the first few months without having Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci and Backes together due to injuries.