They didn’t exactly throw the book at Alexander Ovechkin on Monday, but the NHL’s new department of player safety levied a three-game suspension against the Washington Capitals’ star in keeping with the penalties that players get for that style of hit.
No favouritism, in other words, just because Ovechkin is a two-time most valuable player and not just some pug who plays six minutes a night.
Ovechkin received the three-game ban from Brendan Shanahan, the NHL’s discipline czar, after leaving his feet to check the Penguins’ Zbynek Michalek into the boards during Sunday’s game, won by Pittsburgh 4-3. Ovechkin will forfeit a significant chunk of change – $154,677.75 (U.S.) – to the players’ emergency assistance fund and miss games against the Boston Bruins, the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Florida Panthers, returning to the lineup for a Feb. 4 post-all-star date with the Montreal Canadiens.
In handing down his verdict, Shanahan noted that Ovechkin had been previously suspended twice and fined on two other occasions for physical fouls in his six-year career. On the play, Ovechkin made contact with Michalek’s shoulder before his momentum carried him up into the head area, but according to Shanahan, the fact that the initial point of contact was not the head did not constitute mitigating circumstances. Rather, it was the act of leaving his feet that made the play worthy of a suspension.
“Ovechkin drives up, launching and recklessly making contact with Michalek’s head,” Shanahan said in his video report on the incident.
“While we accept Ovechkin’s assertion that he did not intend to hit Michalek in the head, the moment Ovechkin launches himself in the air prior to the hit, he becomes responsible for any contact to the head.”
Even though Shanahan described the incident as an illegal hit and also called it a charging incident, no penalty was assessed on the original play.