Bruins left winger Brad Marchand tried to characterize his clipping penalty on Canucks defenseman Sami Salo as an act of self defense in a hearing via teleconference with NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan yesterday.
Marchand, who was hit with a five-minute major penalty and game misconduct in Saturday’s 4-3 loss to the Canucks, said he was taking evasive maneuvers to protect himself from what he believed was an imminently dangerous check near the boards.
Shanahan saw it differently.
Shanahan hit Marchand with a five-game suspension. The hit was deemed neither defensive nor instinctive, but rather a “predatory low-hit’’ by a repeat offender resulting in a concussion to Salo.
Marchand, who will begin serving his suspension tonight against the visiting Winnipeg Jets, won’t be eligible to return until Jan. 19, at New Jersey. He will forfeit $152,439.02 in salary, which will go to the NHL players’ emergency assistance fund.
“While we respect the process that the Department of Player Safety took to reach their decision regarding Brad’s hit on Sami Salo, we are very disappointed by their ruling,’’ said Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli, who sat in on the hearing.
Marchand was suspended two games March 15, 2010, for elbowing Columbus’s R.J. Umberger in the head. He was fined $2,500 this season for slew-footing Pittsburgh’s Matt Niskanen Dec. 5, but was not suspended.
In this instance, Shanahan came down harshly on Marchand.
“As the video shows, Marchand skates toward Salo along the boards,’’ Shanahan said. “Rather than deliver a shoulder-to-shoulder check, Marchand drops down dangerously low into Salo’s knee area, propelling Salo up and over and causing an injury.’’
Shanahan said the hit was in violation of Rule No. 44, Clipping, which states: Clipping is the act of throwing the body from any direction, across or below the knees of an opponent. A player may not deliver a check in a “clipping’’ manner or lower his own body position to deliver on or below an opponent’s knees.
“While we understand that in certain instances a player may duck or bail instinctively to protect himself from an imminent dangerous check, we do not view this play as defensive or instinctive,’’ Shanahan said. “Rather, we feel this was a predatory low-hit delivered intentionally by Marchand in order to flip his opponent over.
“Further, Salo was not coming at Marchand with great speed, nor in a threatening posture. He does nothing to indicate that Marchand will be hit illegally or with excessive force.’’
Earlier in the day Chiarelli came to Marchand’s defense. Canucks GM Mike Gillis had characterized the hit “a dirty play by a dirty player,’’ and Canucks coach Alain Vigneault suggested Marchand stood to suffer retribution for his physical play.
“Someday, somebody’s going to say, ‘Enough is enough,’ and they’re going to hurt the kid, because he plays to hurt players,’’ Vigneault told reporters in Vancouver Sunday. “In my mind, if the league doesn’t take care of it, somebody else will.’’
Chiarelli called those remarks distasteful.
“While we understand that the department of safety is an evolving entity,’’ Chiarelli said, “it is frustrating there are clear comparable situations that have not been penalized or sanctioned in the past.’’
He was referring to a low hit Vancouver’s Mason Raymond delivered to Marchand in last year’s Stanley Cup Finals. Raymond was not penalized.
“We’ve done our research and there’s a lot of examples out there; examples from the team we played doing the same thing,’’ Bruins coach Claude Julien said after yesterday’s practice at TD Garden. “We all know about Raymond’s hit on Marchand last year and because Marchand doesn’t get hurt, I guess they think it’s OK for Raymond to do that, but because Salo got hurt, it’s not.
“We can’t have double standards here. All I’m saying is that whatever the league decides to do, we have to respect it. Now, I’ve mentioned it before and I’m going to mention it again, we lost Patrice Bergeron for a whole year. We lost Patrice Bergeron three times, even in the playoffs last year on a hit late in the game, to concussions.
“We’ve got a guy who’s probably ended his career in [Marc] Savard. We’ve had some serious injuries to this hockey club and the one thing we take in charge of ourselves as an organization is to tell our players to protect ourselves better.
“That doesn’t mean necessarily being illegal, but protecting themselves,’’ Julien said. “We don’t want any more of these Bergeron injuries, we want to protect ourselves. I’d rather see a guy protect himself and take a penalty than not protect himself and lose him for the year; and that’s my point, and I’m going to keep making that point.’’
But Shanahan did not view Marchand’s hit as a defensive act, “where there were no other options available,’’ he said.
“As a matter of fact, this near-identical scenario played out 16 seconds earlier where Marchand was able to deliver and absorb a clean, shoulder-to-shoulder check with Salo,’’ Shanahan pointed out. “In spite of the fact that this first hit was a clean play, Marchand shows clear frustration following the hit.
“While this may have led Marchand to believe that Salo might later seek retribution, it is not a defense for clipping a player.’’Michael Vega can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.