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Scheifele Suspension Was Based on Outcome and Appeasement

June 4, 2021, 1:15 PM ET [40 Comments]
Paul Stewart
Blogger •Former NHL Referee • RSSArchiveCONTACT
I know this opinion is in the minority, and that's fine: I saw no ill-intent on Mark Scheifele's hit on Jake Evans late in Game One of the playoff series between the Winnipeg Jets and Montreal Canadiens. What I saw was a desperation attempt to deliver a body-check to knock Evans off the puck before he put it into the empty net and Scheifele arriving a moment too late.

Could Scheifele have tried for a desperation pokecheck instead of a body check? Sure. But that's a split-second decision that had to be made and Scheifele opted to play the body instead of trying to go stick on puck. There's no guarantee that if he'd have gone for the poke check, Scheifele would not have accidentally poked the puck into his own net or that Evans wouldn't have tucked the puck in first.

Distance traveled? What was the defender's other option given the gap: concede the goal? Scheifele didn't accelerate into the hit. He was in glide mode. He had the arm and shoulder tucked. Didn't go head-hunting, didn't lead with an elbow.

The result of the play -- Evans hitting his head and being taken off the ice on a stretcher -- was very unfortunate. But that is part of the inherent risk of playing hockey and putting your head down on a wrap-around play. There is a reasonable expectation of potentially being hit. This hit was late but not egregiously late.

Unless we legislate ALL hitting out of hockey, plays like these are going to happen. The four-game suspension to Scheifele, as I see it, was a case of supplemental discipline based on result and media visibility/ pressure. Actually, I think DOPS was trying to find a compromise between a suspension that took Scheifele out for the rest of the series and not suspending at all.

My main complaint with DOPS is that it makes a lot of decisions that appear calculated more to appease and compromise -- thus avoiding or minimizing the chance of getting in trouble from their own superiors -- rather than being based on judgment of the play. But the buck ultimately should stop with Colin Campbell and, above him, Gary Bettman.

If it were my decision to make here, I would not have suspended Scheifele.

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A 2018 inductee into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame, Paul Stewart holds the distinction of being the first U.S.-born citizen to make it to the NHL as both a player and referee. On March 15, 2003, he became the first American-born referee to officiate in 1,000 NHL games.

Visit Paul's official websites, YaWannaGo.com and Officiating by Stewart.
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