The Toronto Maple Leafs wanted vengeance, and they wanted it twice.
Once with tough guy Jay Rosehill beating the offender to a bloody pulp.
A second time with NHL head of discipline Brendan Shanahan handing down one of his first verdicts in the form of a lengthy suspension.
At issue was an ugly hit from behind in a preseason game Wednesday in Philadelphia. Flyers enforcer Jody Shelley, with a clear view of Leafs centre Darryl Boyce’s backside, sent him face first into the glass.
Rosehill arrived on scene immediately and dropped the gloves, spilling some of Shelley’s blood in order to fulfill hockey’s primitive eye-for-and-eye code.
By Thursday morning at the practice rink, the call was for serious league intervention – even as teammates continually ribbed Boyce for his increasingly swollen, crooked nose.
“It was a little big before,” Leafs centre Philippe Dupuis said. “Now it’s even bigger. Someone said if he’s at the centre line he might still be offside because his nose would be out to the blueline.”
“That hit’s got to be out of the game for sure,” Cody Franson said. “It was late, he didn’t see him coming and his head rattled off the glass. That’s got all the makings for a suspension.”
Late Thursday night, the Leafs finally got their wish, as Shanahan handed Shelley a 10-game suspension – five preseason and five regular-season games – for the hit as part of a busy day in his new role.
Earlier, he had suspended Calgary Flames winger Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond five games for a hit from behind against the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday.
The two suspensions were the first under Shanahan’s watch, and as part of new protocol, came with video explanations – posted on the NHL’s website – detailing why they were made.
“The video clearly shows Boyce has his back to Shelley well before the contact,” Shanahan explains on minute-long video. “Boyce does not put himself in this position immediately prior to or simultaneously with the check.
“Shelley has time to avoid the check completely or, at the very least, minimize the contact. This is a clear violation of the boarding rule.”
Shanahan then adds that Shelley’s two suspensions last season weighed “heavily” into his decision.
Several Leafs players said Thursday that they believe the recently retired Shanahan is the perfect person to take on that role and clean up the sport.
“He’s got a good understanding of where he needs to draw lines [between what’s legal and what’s not]” Franson said. “He knows how guys feel about certain situations.”
Centre Matt Lombardi added that he feels the stiff suspensions are exactly what’s needed.
Lombardi hasn’t played an NHL game since last October because of postconcussion syndrome and said Thursday he found it difficult to watch the hit on Boyce on TV.
“It’s tough to understand when you haven’t been through one of these injuries,” Lombardi said. “The guy’s in a bad position, can’t protect himself. That’s the kind of thing you want to eliminate. You don’t want that in the game. Keep it physical, but none of that blind-side stuff. I can’t … I hate watching that.”
As for Boyce, he has now broken his nose “three or four” times and has recently started wearing a visor. He first became famous for his battered proboscis when he tore his nostril on the photographers’ hole in the glass last February and posted the gory evidence of the injury on Twitter.
Before Shelley’s hit, Boyce had been having a hard time breathing out of one side of his nose. On Thursday, he was struggling with both sides.
He was already scheduled for off-season surgery next summer in order to repair all the damage he sustained in his first NHL season, something that’ll be even more necessary now.
The good news, however, was that he avoided a concussion on the play, as team doctors put him through a variety of tests before allowing him to return to the game Wednesday.
“He’s extraordinary when it comes to dealing with those things,” Leafs coach Ron Wilson said. “But those aren’t career-ending injuries … you’re more worried if he had a concussion. That’s what people have to think about.”
Here's the video of Shanahan's decision: