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Zulgad: NHL blows chance to send strong message after Nyquist’s assault on Spurgeon

Feb 12, 2017; Saint Paul, MN, USA; Minnesota Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon (46) is helped off the ice following a high stick during the first period against the Detroit Red Wings at Xcel Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

How seriously does the NHL take an assault by one of its players on another?

The answer came Wednesday afternoon and if you are a hockey fan you were probably disappointed but not surprised.

The NHL embarrassed itself by handing down a slap-on-the-wrist six-game suspension to Red Wings winger Gustav Nyquist for spearing Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon in the face during the first period of Minnesota’s 6-3 victory over Detroit on Sunday at Xcel Energy Center.

Nyquist was upset because Spurgeon cross-checked him near the boards in the Wild zone. Nyquist got up, turned around, looked at Spurgeon and jabbed the blade of his stick into Spurgeon’s cheek. Spurgeon wears a shield but the blow came up under the visor and barely missed his left eye.

Plain and simple, this was assault.

Somehow the referees working the game blew it by giving Nyquist only a four-minute high-sticking penalty instead of the ejection he deserved. The NHL reportedly acknowledged to the Wild that a mistake had been made and Nyquist should have been tossed.

The league then turned around and blew the ruling. Nyquist’s suspension should have been for a minimum of 10 games and, honestly, could have gone as high as 15 considering his intent clearly was to injure and the way he went about it could have cost Spurgeon his eye.

There was nothing accidental about it, and the fact it happened in a nationally televised game on NBC meant the NHL had a real chance to send a statement. Instead, Gary Bettman’s league let Nyquist off easy and showed again that given a chance to do the right thing they instead did the incompetent thing.

Nyquist was presented with an opportunity to attend a hearing to state his case but passed and decided to defend himself via a conference call with the NHL’s department of player safety.

Nyquist’s explanation, according to the video provided by the league, was that “his intention upon 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.”

Anyone with an ounce of common sense can see Nyquist was selling the league a load of garbage. But, sure enough, the department of player safety said it accepted Nyquist’s explanation that “he did not intend to spear an opponent in the face.”

Other factors working in Nyquist’s favor, were that Spurgeon avoided injury, although he did require stitches to his face, and Nyquist has no history of being disciplined by the league.

None of this should have mattered. Nyquist can claim innocence all he wants but the fact is his first violent offense qualifies as an act that could have left Spurgeon without sight in one eye.

Spurgeon, Nyquist and the NHL were lucky this did not end up being the case. The league was then presented with an opportunity to send a message that using your hockey stick as a weapon won’t be tolerated.

The sad thing is that this will provide another reason for the casual fan to bash hockey for its violence and inability to get its act together. Those who love hockey know it’s a marvelous sport with great speed and skill. But, deep down, we also know the NHL far too often is its own worst enemy.

The latest example came Wednesday when the league was provided with a chance to send a strong message and instead let Nyquist off easy.

  • jgap

    This is a disgrace. Something clearly intentional should at least be the rest of the year. We can’T have stuff like this in hockey.

  • Doug Duwenhoegger

    What doesn’t make sense is that if they accepted his story as true that it was an accident then why the 6 games?

    • fritzdahmus

      My guess – Because it happened….but 4 games less due to what they thought the intent was. They bought his story, but a stick to the face…is a stick to the face.

  • fishhead

    you are wrong judd, 6 games is a good amount in the nhl . I believe nyquist he has no track record. if you want to say they missed their chance look up galchenyuk hits kevan miller in the face or beaulieau spears chara. same old nhl the rules don’t apply to everyone.

    • tk6

      I will respectfully disagree with you. It should have at least been 10 games, there is no doubt from the video it was his full intent to use his stick as a weapon & that cannot be allowed. The NHL has to conform this by penalizing this player according to that fact.

      • fishhead

        from the videos I saw I can believe he was trying to to lift his stick to cross check him if his blade was straight up it would have missed him entirely. and again look at galchenyuk he used his stick as a weapon and the dops said nothing. penalize all players that do this if you want to send a message.

  • Luckyguy705

    If you look at the replay from the reverse angle, you can see that Nyquist’s stick hits the glass hard enough to leave a mark on the glass. I do believe his intention was to take the stick high over Spurgeon’s head so he could get his stick in position to cross check Spurgeon. But hitting the glass caused him to stop his upward motion and start going horizontal to go over his head. He has retaliated a cross check with a cross check of his own quite a few times. He still deserves the 6 games but after seeing the reverse angle and his history you can give him the benefit of the doubt.

    • luckyguy705

      https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=xRu-AppKGqA Look at the 30 second mark, he’s hand and stick hit the glass.

    • William McRoberts

      Your a moron !! He did that completely on purpose !! He was no more trying to cross check him than the vikings won the super bowl !!

      • Luckyguy705

        Did you even watch the video? The only morons are the people thinking he’s trying to spear someone in the face on purpose.

        • Antileftist

          yeah I watched the video from multiple angles. Nyquist looked right at Spurgeon as he hit him. Are you really that obtuse? Talk about a moron, you’re looking at one every time you see your reflection.

  • Antileftist

    Matt Cooke was suspended for 7 games for his knee on knee hit against Tyson Barrie a couple of years ago. Granted he was a repeat offender but that hit pales in comparison to Nyquist’s hit on Spurgeon. The NHL is a joke.

  • Gil Gosseyn

    I understand getting angry or “seeing red” but he straight up assaulted him with the intentions of doing serious damage… dude could’ve lost an eye





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