Depending on how viral the video below goes, Jonathan Huberdeau could be public enemy No. 1 among his home province's junior hockey fans by the time the President's Cup final begins.
The Saint John Sea Dogs captain might have got away with one during the first shift of his team's eventual series-clinching 4-3 overtime win over the Chicoutimi Saguenéens in their QMJHL semifinal series on Saturday night. Just 18 seconds into the contest, Huberdeau knocked one of the top Saguenéens forwards, centre Charles Hudon, out of the game with a questionable check along the boards. On some nights there might have been charging or checking from behind penalty, but in a game where old-school playoff-style officiating seemed to be in place, referees Jonathan Langille and Mario Maillet saw fit to call nothing. It also appears Hudon might have turned toward the boards at the last moment before the collision.
Here's the Sea Dogs video (stick tap for the find to Chris Phillips):
As you might expect, the a clamour for Huberdeau to be suspended could break across team allegiance and regional lines. (The Saguenéens' Facebook post of the video got 30 comments within two hours, which is a lot on a Sunday morning.)
The late camera switch keeps the full extent of the check from being evident, but it looks like some infraction could have been whistled. But similar plays often result in only a two-minute minor penalty or a double minor, not supplemental discipline. With tongue only half in cheek, if the Cameron Critchlow suspension is any indication, Huberdeau ought to be in the clear. After all, the "evidence has to be overwhelming that the officials erred" (Willy Palov's phrasing) for the QMJHL to reverse a dubious penalty. Then the same standard should apply when it's a dubious no-call, one would think.
The league has issued suspensions previously for incidents that weren't penalized by game officials, that being said. It's worth revisiting the rationale for upholding Critchlow's automatic one-game suspension that will keep him out of Game 6 of the Rimouski-Halifax series, where his Mooseheads are facing a do-or-done game.
Despite the Mooseheads' position, [QMJHL disciplinary prefect Raymond] Bolduc said the standard for overturning that kind of on-ice call is that the evidence has to be overwhelming that the officials erred.
"If it is clear on the video that a player is not doing that, we can reverse that," Bolduc said. "But it was called by the referees and the linesmen. They are both positive that he removed the helmet. It's clear so I have no choice." (Halifax Chronicle-Herald)
This wasn't called by the officials. A day later, are they positive it was a suspendable offence?
There's likely to be some knee-jerking about special treatment for a star player. However, if the officials were giving any Huberdeau any breaks, they had a funny show of showing it. Both he and Chicoutimi's Andrew O'Brien were sent off for roughing in overtime, which led to a 4-on-4 that helped Washington Capitals prospect Stanislav Galiev score Saint John's the series-winning goal.
Ultimately, the QMJHL has a controversy on its hands ahead of the final, since the overdog Sea Dogs will likely not be a media darling as they attempt to make it a Maritime President's Cup three-peat. It's a bit of awkward situation for the league to have a marquee player in the spotlight for a sketchy play. It's almost like the NHL in that regard.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.
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