The National Hockey League will not discipline the Anaheim Ducks’ Hampus Lindholm for a hit that launched Edmonton Oilers star Connor McDavid shoulder-first into the boards on Sunday night.
John Dellapina, a spokesman for the league’s department of player safety, said Monday no hearing has been scheduled to discuss a possible suspension or fine against the Ducks defenceman. Lindholm does not have a reputation for unsportsmanlike behaviour and no penalty was assessed on the play.
The players were battling for position behind Anaheim’s net when the incident occurred. The Oilers captain was skating hard when Lindholm shoved him in the middle of the back. McDavid crashed violently into the corner and got up slowly but was uninjured. He and Lindholm scuffled briefly before McDavid skated back to the bench.
One of McDavid’s teammates, Joseph Gambardella, charged Lindholm afterward but they separated quickly as play continued at the other end of the ice.
Users on Twitter erupted in anger in the aftermath of the hit. McDavid missed 37 games in his rookie season in 2015-16 after suffering a broken left clavicle when he was propelled into the boards against the Philadelphia Flyers. He led the NHL in scoring in each of the past two seasons, and scored what proved to be the winning goal in the first period on Sunday night.
It was McDavid’s seventh game-winner this season and the 25th of his career, a record for a player who has not yet reached his 22nd birthday. McDavid turns 22 on Jan. 13.
Oilers fans and media commentators railed against the referees on Sunday night for not calling a penalty on a dangerous play. It happened directly in front of veteran official Kyle Rehman.
Sportsnet colour commentator Nick Kypreos said he cringed when McDavid struck the boards head-first and immediately worried that he might be injured.
“When I first saw it, it looked like a vicious play,” Kypreos, a former NHL tough guy, said in an interview.
But after watching the replay, Kypreos changed his mind. He said McDavid initiated the contact against Lindholm with his shoulder in an effort to create space.
“After watching it on a few occasions, I didn’t think it was suspension worthy,” Kypreos said.
Dellapina acknowledged the hit on McDavid created a stir and said the NHL noticed it. He said the league has a person assigned to log and review every hit that occurs in every game. Anything considered questionable is run up the chain of command, even if no penalty was called.
The player safety department does not talk about specific plays publicly, but in this case no supplemental action was initiated.
Ken Hitchcock, the Oilers coach, complained after a game in Vancouver last month that officials do not treat McDavid with the respect he is due.
“We are a league that is supposed to showcase our top players,” Hitchcock said. “It is to discouraging to be honest. I think it is a real disservice to him.”
Neither McDavid nor Hitchcock addressed the hit after Sunday night’s game, which was won by the Oilers, 4-0. On Saturday night, Los Angeles defenceman Drew Doughty was caught by cameras as he laughed on the bench after elbowing McDavid in the face. No penalty was called on that play.
The Oilers declined to comment on the incident Monday.
The sport’s most dynamic player, McDavid has drawn 17 penalties in 41 games this season. That is the 13th-most in the league, but fewer than a number of players who are not as high profile, including Warren Foegele of Carolina, Pierre-Luc Dubois of Columbus, Matthew Barzal of the New York Islanders, Nico Hischier of New Jersey and Clayton Keller of Arizona.
McDavid drew the eighth-most penalties (35) in the NHL in 2017-18 and is about on the same pace this year.
“There is a whole conversation going on about the league not protecting Connor or other superstars,” Kypreos said. “Nobody wants to see the best players in the world get hurt. But the league isn’t going to bend over backward, and won’t make special rules for them.
“Its job is to protect everybody equally.”