Did the NHL get it right with the Scheifele suspension? Most NHL fans have seen the video. Mark Scheifele of the Winnipeg Jets literally laid out Montreal’s Jake Evans with a brutal hit on Wednesday night. Evans later was diagnosed with a concussion. Immediately on social media, the hit became the hottest topic this week in the NHL. The following day, the NHL Department of Player Safety (DoPS) handed out their verdict. Four game suspension. Now, these same NHL fans have taken on the newest topic – The Scheifele Suspension.
My colleague, Christian Adams and I were debating the whole incident and suspension. Valiant efforts were made to persuade the other when we decided to make our case to you, the fans. So here’s our vastly different opinions. What’s your take?
The Scheifele Hit
There is no doubt that the hit was vicious. In over five decades of watching the NHL, this is on the top five hits I’ve seen all-time. The call on the ice was charging. To clarify, according to the rule book:
Charging takes place when a player takes more than two strides or travels an excessive distance to accelerate through a body check for the purpose of punishing the opponent.
I can absolutely see that Scheifele skates approximately 190 feet. Since the NHL rink is 200 feet at its longest, let’s all agree Scheifele skated an excessive distance. The question for the DoPS is to determine if Scheifele had the purpose of punishing Evans. Unless you’re in his head, only Scheifele knows for certain if he intended to hurt Evans or make a hockey play. Now, the DoPS has a reputation for some questionable judgments. Add this to the list. They deemed the Scheifele suspension should be four games.
Have to admit that my initial reaction after seeing the hit one time at real speed, I thought it was suspension worthy. It appeared Scheifele left his feet. Looked like he didn’t make an attempt to do anything but maim Evans. Now that I’ve watched it from at least three diff angles, I’m more convinced it was a good albeit vicious hit.
The Scheifele Suspension
After every viewing, pausing and rewinding as if I’m dissecting the Zapruder film, I’m reminded of another hit. Lightning fans, you’ll remember this one. It was the first round of the 2015 playoffs. The Lightning were up three games to two heading into Game 6 at Detroit. With about a minute remaining in the second period Niklas Kronwall laid a hit on Nikita Kucherov.
As I watched that game, I thought it was dirty but after watching it multiple times, like the Scheifele hit, I thought Kronwall left his feet but did not. Despite no call on the play, Kronwall received a one game suspension and missed the pivotal Game 7 won by Tampa.
Scheifele did not leave his feet. Watching the view from Scheifele’s back, he did make a slight turn towards the goal post about 10-15 feet away. Might not seem like a lot but everyone on the planet knew where Evans and the puck were going. This slight move to me was Scheifele trying to put himself between Evans (and the puck) and the Winnipeg net. There’s your hockey play.
Lastly, Scheifele does not have the reputation of say a Tom Wilson or any repeat offender. Dirty isn’t his game. Hard nosed, finish your check, better have your head on a swivel kind of hockey is his reputation. I thought that the suspension would be for a game ala Kronwall. Obviously, the DoPS believes it knows that Scheifele’s only intention was to hurt Evans. That, my friends, is wrong. As wrong as the length of the Scheifele suspension.
Drama with the Department of Player Safety, why am I not surprised? I’ve honestly been appalled with them lately, but I think they nailed this one. Now this was a tough one for me to dissect. I can understand why people think this is a clean hit. He did not accelerate through. He did not leave his feet, and the initial impact was around the shoulder. I’m watching the full play, along with the frame by frame, these are the things that I noticed.
This most definitely is charging. I also thought that charging meant accelerating through a check, but this is not the case. According to the 2020-2021 NHL Rulebook, charging
“Shall mean the actions of a player who, as a result of distance traveled, shall violently check an opponent in any manner”.
There’s just no doubt about this one. Scheifele traveled very nearly the length of the ice to lay an explosive hit on Evans. It needs to be understood that Scheifele is going really fast. Despite stopping his stride at the hash marks he is 6’3 and 207. Ice has considerably less friction than anything else therefore, he is not losing momentum quickly and is still traveling at a considerable speed when he makes impact. Definitely worth a major and a game misconduct.
If Scheifele wanted to prevent a goal he would’ve used his stick. His hockey stick would be roughly 5 /12 feet. In addition to his normal reach there was more than enough room to at the very least get his stick on the puck. However he was locked on Evans from the moment he spotted him around the top of the circles. By the time he’s at the top of the crease, his eyes have never locked toward the puck, and he is preparing for the hit. In doing so, he’s actually taking his stick out of the equation by starting to lead with the opposite shoulder. Scheifele had decided he was gonna lay the biggest hit on Evans that he could. This makes it a predatory hit.
Scheifele did not leave his feet, but I don’t think he had to in order to make this a really dangerous hit. In addition to the high speed he exploded up and through his check and made contact with the head. Despite the initial contact being toward the inside of the shoulder, it’s pretty clear that Scheifele pushed up as his knees were bent upon initial contact and then in the next frame it’s clear he had extended upward (this is when his skates come off the ice). If Scheifele keeps his shoulder down through the hit I think it’s fine, but he didn’t.
Guys I love big hits, the physicality of this game is what makes it special but we have to take care of our players. This hit was okay 10-15 years ago, but it can’t be anymore. With the known danger of head trauma and CTE, these types of hits don’t belong in the game anymore. I want to see stars go on to have long careers. I don’t want former players to be living with brain damage and medical issues for the rest of their lives. No parent wants to be scared to send their kids on the ice for fear of getting seriously injured. Although it is a risk that should be avoided at all costs, and this was certainly avoidable.
Now I’ve seen the comments about Evans having his head up and I don’t disagree. It would’ve really benefited Evans to have taken a peak while he was coming around the net. However, this doesn’t mean he is to blame. Despite only reaching a very low level of College hockey, mine and I bet many other players’ first instinct would have been (had we have been in Evans’ shoes) to wrap the puck around as quickly as possible before Scheifele could’ve disrupted the play with his stick or his stick first then his body. At NHL speeds those wraparounds are not easy and require a fair amount of concentration. Should he be cognizant of taking the body or even a hit, yes but I also think very few people would expect to be absolutely steamrolled in that situation.
Overall I think 4 games is just right for the Scheifele suspension. Is it the dirtiest hit I’ve ever seen… no but at the same time I do believe it was avoidable and that from the circles in Scheifele was out to get Evans, not prevent a goal. This is all in addition to the head contact which you just can’t have. Hopefully Winnipeg makes it to game 6 so this can be settled and done with. Scheifele is a good player with no history and although I think he meant to do damage, I don’t think he meant to do that much damage. Also wishing Jake Evans a speedy recovery.
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