The NHL’s Department of Player Safety has suspended Detroit Red Wings forward Gustav Nyquist six games for a high-stick to the face of Minnesota Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon in their Sunday game.
TSN’s Bob McKenzie was first to report the news. Nyquist had a phone hearing with the league Wednesday afternoon. He was originally offered an in-person hearing, but turned it down. The offer of an in-person hearing meant the Department of Player Safety was considering a suspension of six games or more for Nyquist.
The play came at the 14:13 mark of the first period after Spurgeon knocked down Nyquist with a cross-check along the boards. Nyquist did not seem to appreciate the play and then used his blade to hit Spurgeon in the face.
Spurgeon got a few stiches and went back on the ice in a few minutes. Nyquist received a minor penalty for a high-stick.
The Department of Player Safety explained that the play was “extremely dangerous” and could have been “career-threatening” for Spurgeon.
“It’s important to note that this is not an accidental, or inadvertent high-stick delivered by a player who is swatting at a puck in mid-air, or who simply fails to control his stick in traffic. Rather, as Nyquist stated during the hearing regarding this incident, he acts in retaliation for being cross-checked from behind. Nyquist insisted, however, that his intention on getting back on his skates was to respond with a cross-check of his own, and that he was attempting to get his stick around Spurgeon and in position to deliver a cross-check when the blade jabbed Spurgeon in the face,” the Department of Player Safety said. “While we accept Nyquist’s explanation that he did not intend to spear an opponent in the face, there are two factors that elevate this incident to a level more serious than merely accidental or reckless. First as Nyquist conceded he is attempting to use his stick in a retaliatory fashion. Second, no matter how he specifically intended to retaliate with his stick, Nyquist is completely responsible for using his stick to deliver a blow that was extremely dangerous and easily could have resulted in a major if not career-threatening injury.”
Because of the suspension, Nyquist will lose $158,333.34. According to Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press, the Red Wings will not appeal the suspension.
After Sunday’s game, a 6-3 win by the Wild, Nyquist tried to explain himself to reporters.
“(It was) completely accidental. Obviously didn’t mean to do that. My stick gets caught. I’m trying to get body position on him and I’m happy he was out there again. Obviously had no intention of doing that, so my stick gets caught and it looks bad but I’m happy he’s OK,” Nyquist said.
Spurgeon played 22:16 and notched an assist. The high-stick gave him a gash on the side of his face.
“I haven’t really seen a replay or anything. I’m sure something will happen and the league will do something” Spurgeon said according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “I’m just happy it didn’t go in my eye or something like that.”
The suspension is in line with how many games the NHL gave Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith last season for high-sticking Wild forward Charlie Coyle. That was Keith’s second high-sticking suspension and third of his career. It also kept him out for one game of the playoffs.
In 317 career games, Nyquist has picked up just 92 penalty minutes. Last season he was given a $2,000 fine for diving/embellishment, but that was the length of extra discipline he received by the NHL before Wednesday.
“What you’re trying to argue is intent,” Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said Tuesday according to the Detroit Free Press. “With his clean record, with his penalty minutes per year, with all that type of stuff, I think you can argue a very strong case that the intent wasn’t there. He’ll explain why his stick was in the position it was, but the intent was not there.
“In other cases, because of a guy’s record, it’s hard to argue that. In Nyquist’s case, I think it is an easy argument and a strong argument to say that the intent wasn’t there. The one thing I can’t say emphatically enough is I’ve known Gus a long time. In no way possible was that an intentional act by him. I saw the optics on it, but there is no chance it was an intentional play by him.”
The 27-year-old Nyquist is tied for third on Detroit with 29 points in 56 games. The Red Wings are currently in last place in the Eastern Conference with 54 points – nine out of the final Wild Card spot. Losing Nyquist for six games should further hamper their already slender hopes of getting back into the playoff race. Detroit has made the postseason 25 straight years.
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