BOSTON -- Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand has been suspended for five games by the NHL
and will forfeit $152,439.02 for his illegal hit that led to a concussion to the Vancouver Canucks' Sami Salo during Boston's 4-3 loss on Saturday at TD Garden.
Brendan Shanahan, the league's vice president of player safety and hockey operations, held a disciplinary hearing via a conference call at 12:30 p.m. ET Monday afternoon.
Marchand was assessed a five-minute major and given a game misconduct for clipping Salo at 18:47 of the second period during Saturday's loss.
The league announced its decision shortly after 6:30 p.m.
"As the video shows, Marchand skates towards Salo along the boards," Shanahan said in a video posted on the league's website. "Rather than deliver a shoulder-to-shoulder check, Marchand drops down dangerously low into Salo's knee area, propelling Salo up and over, causing an injury."
Shanahan added the hit was a violation of Rule 44 that reads: "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 nor lower his body position to deliver a check on or below an opponent's knees."
Shanahan added: "While we understand that in certain circumstances, a player may duck or bail instinctively in order to protect himself from an imminent dangerous check, we do not view this play as defensive or instinctive. Rather, we feel that this was a predatory, low hit delivered intentionally by Marchand in order to flip his opponent over him.
"Further, Salo is not coming at him at great speed, nor in a threatening posture. He does nothing to indicate that Marchand is about to be hit illegally or with excessive force. To be clear, we do not consider this to be a defensive act where there were no other options available to Marchand."
Another reason for the suspension, Shanahan explained, was reflected in a similar play on the same shift.
A mere 16 seconds prior to the illegal hit, Marchand was able to "deliver and absorb" a clean shoulder-to-shoulder check with Salo.
After the initial clean hit, Marchand showed frustration and gave a quick jab to Salo's back.
"While this may have led Marchand to believe Salo might later seek retribution, that is not a defense for clipping a player," Shanahan said. "It's important to note that we've taken into account that Salo suffered a concussion as a result of the hit. We've also taken into consideration that Marchand was suspended last March."
Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli said he doesn't agree with the league's ruling.
"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," Chiarelli said in a statement.
"While we understand that the department of safety is an evolving entity, it is frustrating that there are clear comparable situations that have not been penalized or sanctioned in the past.
"It is equally disappointing that Brad sought the counsel of the department this past fall for an explanation and clarification regarding this type of scenario so as to adjust his game if necessary. He was advised that such an incident was not sanctionable if he was protecting his own safety. Given our feeling that Brad was indeed protecting himself and certainly did not clip the player as he contacted the player nowhere near the knee or quadricep, today's ruling is not consistent with what the department of player safety communicated to Brad."
Chiarelli had cited several similar plays in the past when no disciplinary action was taken while speaking with the media earlier Monday.
During Game 5 of the Stanley Cup finals last June, the Canucks' Mason Raymond delivered a similar hit to Marchand. Marchand was not hurt on that play and Raymond was not penalized.
"Because Marchand doesn't get hurt, I guess (the league) thinks it's OK for Raymond to do that, but because Salo got hurt then it's not," Bruins coach Claude Julien said Monday morning. "We can't have double standards here."
Marchand declined to discuss the suspension Monday night, but did maintain his hit was not clipping.
"It technically wasn't a clip," Marchand said. "Clipping is when you hit someone at the knees and I did not hit him at the knees. Anyone that has seen the video will see that I hit him in the upper thigh under the buttocks. They can call it a clipping but they obviously don't know the rules of hockey. I felt like I was trying to protect myself and get low and he went over me."
After Monday's practice, Julien said he would respect any decision by the league. Since Saturday's game, Julien has said that he felt Marchand was protecting himself.
"We'll let the league take care of what they need to take care of and we move on," Julien said. "We respect what the league is trying to do. We're a team that's built a certain way, we're a physical team and we certainly try to play within the rules and if we cross the line, and they feel like we have crossed the line, we have to live with it."
When it comes to head injuries, the Bruins have been at the forefront of the campaign to protect players league-wide. Boston lost Patrice Bergeron for the majority of the 2007-2008 season when he suffered a severe concussion. The Bruins' Marc Savard also had his career cut short due to a string of concussions in 2010 and 2011.
"I've mentioned it before and I'll mention it again: We've lost Patrice Bergeron for a whole year," Julien said. "We've lost Patrice three times, even in the playoffs last year, late in the game on a hit and a concussion. We've got a guy who has probably ended his career in Savard. We've had some serious injuries to this hockey club and the one thing we've taken charge of ourselves, as an organization, is to tell our players to protect themselves better. That doesn't necessarily mean illegal, but protect yourself.
"We don't want any more of these Bergeron injuries, we don't want any more of what happened to Savard. We want to protect ourselves. I would rather see a guy protect themselves and take a penalty than not protect themselves and lose them for the year."
Bruins forward Milan Lucic also received a similar hit during the finals last season when the Canucks' Dan Hamhuis upended him. Lucic wasn't hurt, and Hamhuis did not receive a penalty. Lucic spoke about that hit Monday morning, including a similar hit that the Canucks' Keith Ballard put on the San Jose's Jamie McGinn during the Western Conference finals last spring.
"There are definitely similarities, same point. Just because I didn't get injured doesn't mean it makes it any different," Lucic said. "Even for Ballard, I saw him do the exact same thing to Jamie McGinn last year against San Jose, but whatever. You know, the more we talk about it, the more we think about it and it becomes more frustrating. It's just one game and we don't have to play them again. We need to move on from this.
"It's unfortunate Salo got hurt on the play," Lucic said. "Injuries are a part of the game. Obviously, the whole concussion thing, everyone is a lot more sensitive to it, which we should be because we know a lot more about it. The league, I feel, has done a good job making the right calls so far and they're going to keep doing what they need to do."
"When I got hit like that, I had no problem with it. You didn't see me complaining about it after, so it is what it is," Lucic said.
With Marchand out, fellow forward Benoit Pouliot likely will play on the line with Bergeron and Tyler Seguin.
"Ben played a good game the game Marchy was sick and he's a guy who can certainly play on that line," Julien said. "He's played well enough to deserve to play there. Based on my assessment of him last game that he played [on that line] he's a very fitting player to put in there if need be."