Towards the end of the first period, Gustav Nyquist was cross-checked from behind by Jared Spurgeon and decided to respond by spearing Spurgeon in the face with his stick. He only received a double minor, as the play drew blood. Spurgeon later returned after getting stitches, so it doesn’t look like he will miss any games.
In the video, Nyquist is battling for the puck with Chris Stewart along the boards as Spurgeon gives him a shove from behind he down and into the boards. In response, Nyquist gets up, looks at Spurgeon, and swings his stick up and into Spurgeon’s face with the toe of his stick blade jabbing into 46's cheek. Nyquist is fully in control of his stick and intentionally high sticks Spurgeon.
Spurgeon’s shove isn’t particularly egregious except that he used his stick instead of his hands. Players give similar shoves from behind pretty often using their hands, and while you can debate whether or not that kind of play should be a penalty, it currently goes uncalled. However, Spurgeon uses his stick, and thus it’s a cross-check. If the referees call the cross-check, then Nyquist likely doesn’t get the chance to react that way. Or at least some people want you to believe that. Nyquist never got up looking around for the referee to see if a delayed penalty was going to be called. Instead, he got up and got even. The play was so quickly after the cross check, that even if a delayed penalty was going to be called, the delayed part of it wouldnt likely have mattered.
That said, Spurgeon’s actions are irrelevant to Nyquist’s likely suspension as nothing excuses that kind of response.
For review, here’s what the 2016-2017 NHL Rulebook says about High-Stiicking.
Rule 60 – High-sticking
60.1 High-sticking - A “high stick” is one which is carried above the height of the opponent’s shoulders. Players must be in control and responsible for their stick. However, a player is permitted accidental contact on an opponent if the act is committed as a normal windup or follow through of a shooting motion, or accidental contact on the opposing center who is bent over during the course of a face-off. A wild swing at a bouncing puck would not be considered a normal SECTION 8 – STICK FOULS NATIONAL HOCKEY LEAGUE OFFICIAL RULES 2016-2017 86 windup or follow through and any contact to an opponent above the height of the shoulders shall be penalized accordingly.
60.2 Minor Penalty - Any contact made by a stick on an opponent above the shoulders is prohibited and a minor penalty shall be imposed.
60.3 Double-minor Penalty - When a player carries or holds any part of his stick above the shoulders of the opponent so that injury results, the Referee shall assess a double-minor penalty for all contact that causes an injury, whether accidental or careless, in the opinion of the Referee.
60.4 Match Penalty – When, in the opinion of the Referee, a player attempts to or deliberately injures an opponent while carrying or holding any part of his stick above the shoulders of the opponent, the Referee shall assess a match penalty to the offending player.
60.6 Fines and Suspensions - There are no specified fines or suspensions for high-sticking, however, supplementary discipline can be applied by the Commissioner at his discretion (refer to Rule 28)
Nyquist was assesed a double-minor penalty on the play, but it could have very easily been a match penalty as the high sticking looks deliberate and intentional.
There aren’t any specific fines or suspensions for egregious high-sticks, but Wild fans may be familiar with a decent comparable from last year when Duncan Keith slashed Charlie Coyle in the face. Keith was suspended the final 5 games of the regular season and the first game of the playoffs, which the NHL weighs more heavily regarding suspensions.
A big difference between Keith’s slashing and Nyquist’s high-stick is that Nyquist is a first time offender where Keith has had multiple suspensions before.
Some reactions around the league.
That is one of the dirtiest high-sticks I have seen since Duncan Keith on Charlie Coyle. NHL Player Safety will have to take a long look— Michael Russo (@Russostrib) February 12, 2017
As stick fouls goes, this one is flagrant: https://t.co/a3WRmQC8UR— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) February 12, 2017
After the game, Nyquist said he was glad Spurgeon was okay after, but he might want to work on his defense.
As of writing, Nyquist has already been offered an in-person hearing with the Department of Player Safety. This usually means that he is facing a suspension of 6 or more games.
Overall, Nyquist isn’t a dirty player, but there isn’t any room for this kind of play in hockey.