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Nyquist suspended for 6 games for dangerous high stick

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The NHL’s Department Of Player Safety has awarded Gustav Nyquist a 6 game suspension for his high stick on Jared Spurgeon on Sunday's Detroit/Minnesota game. Nyquist was awarded only a 4 minute penalty for his high stick in the game, but the call was blown by the refs and it should have been a 5 minute major and a game misconduct, as the league let the Wild know on Tuesday.

Here is the play in question:

This is clearly high sticking as the raising of Nyquist’s stick made contact to the face of Spurgeon.

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 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)

The officials went easy on him by only assessing a double minor because from the replay, you can see there was an intent to do some damage. Maybe he wasn’t aiming for the eye, but he wanted to do something to number 46. This should’ve been a Match Penalty, if you apply the criteria stated in the rule book.

A case could be made, however, that this was spearing. As Nyquist raised his stick, he turned the toe of his stick towards the face of the Wild defenseman.

Rule 62 – Spearing 62.1 Spearing - Spearing shall mean stabbing an opponent with the point of the stick blade, whether contact is made or not.

62.2 Double-minor Penalty - A double-minor penalty will be imposed on a player who spears an opponent and does not make contact.

62.3 Major Penalty - A major penalty shall be imposed on a player who spears an opponent (see 62.5).

62.4 Match Penalty - A match penalty shall be imposed on a player who injures an opponent as a result of a spear.

62.5 Game Misconduct Penalty - Whenever a major penalty is assessed for spearing, a game misconduct penalty must also be imposed.

62.6 Fines and Suspensions - There are no specified fines or suspensions for spearing, however, supplementary discipline can be applied by the Commissioner at his discretion (refer to Rule 28).

The penalty for spearing is much more severe.

No matter how the NHL decided to impose the suspension, play was extremely dangerous. It’s not something the league has wanted in any part of the game, even if they have looked the other way in terms of fighting. But speaking for Nyquist was his clean record. He was not a repeat offender which lead to a shorter suspension. Nyquist high sticked Spurgeon after being cross checked by him near the boards and retaliated in kind. He appeared completely in control of his stick, but according to his comments post-game, it was unintentional and his stick got stuck. His stick made contact with Spurgeon's cheek, just below the orbital bone in his face and was dangerously close to his eye. Even though intent to injure seemed obvious, it could still be questioned, which may have had an effect on the length of the suspension. Spurgeon was not injured severely, as he only need stitches to repair the wound, and returned to the game. The fact that Spurgeon avoided serious injury and won't miss any games likely played into the decision on the length of the suspension as a mitigating factor.

Nyquist was offered an in-person-hearing, which allowed the league to hand down a longer suspension of six games or greater. Nyquist declined the in-person hearing and decided to take a phone hearing instead. The in-person hearing would have allowed him to better represent his case, but there was really nothing about the play that would speak for him. Not to mention it being on network TV, and national NHL pundits every where condemning the action. His clean record and reputation, and plausible deniability (see post game comments), which he would not need to present, were pretty much his case.

To see six games for a first offense is not unheard of, but disappointing that something as malicious as this didn’t get more.

UPDATE:

Here is the official video from the NHL Department of Player Safety:

Some odd language used in the video by the league that contradicts the suspension. First, while explaining Nyquist’s side of the play, they finish with the statement, “While we accept that he did not intend to spear an opponent in the face.” Spearing is a much more egregious offense and if they are going to apply the high sticking rule to this incident, then they cannot use the terminology of a more serious penalty.

Secondly, while mentioning that he was in complete control of 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.” Yet, they weighed they clearly heavily took into the consideration of the fact that Spurgeon did not get injured, aside from a gash on the cheek. This is again the league punishing the result, rather than the act or behavior. I get it that you can’t discipline solely on hypotheticals, but this deliberate act is less hypothetical, and more lucky that it wasn’t worse. Still doesn’t change the behavior.

The Red Wings are struggling to make the playoffs, and while losing a player could hurt them the next six game, it certainly doesn’t hurt the player if the was about correcting that kind of behavior.