Based on the Griffin Reinhart suspension, one might think IIHF stands for Inconsistency In Hockey Fouls.
In a world junior championship which has had a slew of suspensions, the Team Canada defenceman getting a four-game ban for a two-minute high-sticking penalty on Thursday is the hardest to get wrapped around. One can abide the International Ice Hockey Federation lawyerspeak that Reinhart, who has a whopping 12 penalty minutes in 31 games with the Edmonton Oil Kings juniors this season, was "very careless, dangerous and avoidable" when he struck Team USA's Vince Trocheck in the head with his stick. Or, if you prefer, Reinhart's stick struck Trocheck's head as he lost his balance:
The IIHF rationale is as follows:
Reinhart entered the corner with the puck and was checked by USA forward Vince Trocheck. Both players became tangled up with Reinhart dropping to his knees. Trocheck made contact in an attempt to continue to play the puck.
Once on his knees, Reinhart made eye contact with his opponent, raised his stick and delivered a two-handed slash to the head and neck area of Trocheck, who fell to the ice as a result of the infraction. Reinhart was assessed a minor penalty for high-sticking. There was no apparent injury incurred by Trocheck.
... the IIHF Disciplinary Panel deemed this action to be very careless, dangerous and avoidable, and for this the player shall be held accountable.
Based on the aforementioned, the Disciplinary Panel came to the unanimous conclusion that although there was no injury to the opposing player, the action was dangerous to the safety of Trocheck and was avoidable. (IIHF media release)
Four games is the harshest and longest sanction the IIHF disciplinary panel has meted out during the tournament. Trocheck did not miss a shift. The IIHF rationale might (stretching here) account for the fact that concussions can be caused by an athlete suffering repeated small blows to the head. Suppose Trocheck takes another stick to the head on Saturday in the Sweden-U.S. gold-medal game or next week when he returns to the OHL with the Saginaw Spirit.
Granted, if acknowledging that blows to head that do not seem to cause injury at the time should be punished, then how did Team USA's Ryan Hartman receive zero supplemental discipline for a blindside contact-to-head check on Canada's Ryan Murphy in the teams' earlier meeting? Hartman received a minor and misconduct on that play. Team Canada's medical staff had to give Murphy attention on the ice.
Switzerland's Tanner Richard cross-checked Sweden's Elias Lindholm in the face. No penalty and no suspension even though it was a blow to the head.
Regarding Reinhart and stickwork, while the IIHF has a different standard than what North American fans generate accept, even it probably concedes the hacks and whacks, as well as inadvertent blows with the stick, are part of a fast-paced game. Four games for a high stick when Reinhart did not appear to do anything deliberate ("as I was tripping I kind of lost balance and my stick rode up his stick and made accidental contact to the head") is ridiculous.
That is not to say it deserved nothing. But compare it to other IIHF suspensions during orld junior championships.
Russian forward Valeri Nichushkin checked Canada's Tyler Wotherspoon from behind into the boards. That was only worthy of one-game ban.
Team USA defenceman Shayne Gostisbehere received one game for a definitely deliberate spearing major/game misconduct on Slovakia's Matus Matis.
Canada's JC Lipon caught Slovakia's Tomas Mikus with a forearm to the head during a high-speed collision in their Dec. 28 game. Lipon was ejected with a five-minute major and game misconduct and received a one-game ban.
Switzerland forward Lukas Sieber received one game for an elbow to the head of Finland's Ville Pokka.
The only other suspension for high-sticking went to Russia's Maxim Shalunov on the world junior's opening day. Shalunov got a double minor — as opposed to Reinhart getting a minor — for striking Slovakia defenceman Tomas Nechala in the face with his stick. Shalunov was, wait for it, shelved for only one game.
Reinhart's suspension is longer than the three-game ban teammate Boone Jenner earned for a late hit in Dec. 22 exhibition game against Sweden. Jenner received a charging major/game misconduct and Sweden's Jesper Pettersen was injured to the extent that Sweden had to replace him on its roster.
The last four-game ban came in the 2011 tournament. Slovakia's Martin Marincin got it for a blindside cheap shot on Team USA's Jason Zucker. That's where the line would seem to be for a four-game ban.
In the same tournament, there was a bad headshot by Canada's Zack Kassian that sent Czech Republic's Petr Senkerik to the hospital.
Kassian's sanction was two games. Or half of what Reinhart received, which will affect his participation in the 2014 tournament. The New York Islanders No. 4 overall pick, who might get a NHL opportunity at age 19 next season, would not be able to play until Canada's final round-robin game. It was one thing for Canada to start this tournament with a forward, Jenner, suspended. Operating a defenceman short is a much more awkward situation.
So, four games for a high stick? Based on IIHF precedent, it makes no sense.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org (videos: TSN, IIHF).