When National Hockey League appointed former player Brendan Shanahan as its senior vice president of hockey operations and player safety, the current players began to pay up. As someone who recently retired from the game of hockey, Shanahan knows of the risks players take every time they step onto ice, and as such, wanted to make the game is safer for the players.
With safety, comes great responsibility and for Sherriff Shanahan, who has been doling out fines and suspensions, that means a hit to the ol’ pocketbook.
As of March 14 Shanahan has handed out 39 suspensions and fined 28 players and coaches, the Buffalo Sabres’ Tyler Myers being the latest dinged.
With wads of money being lost by both players and coaches, let’s take a look at the most costly NHL infractions that have occurred this season:
Sept. 23, 2011: James Wisniewski, Columbus Blue Jackets, $536,585.36
One of the main reasons for the early struggles of the Blue Jackets this season was that they were without one of their best offseason acquisitions in defenceman James Wisniewski for the first eight games of the regular season.
In a preseason game on Sept. 23, 2011 Wisniewski leveled Minnesota Wild forward Cal Clutterbuck with an illegal hit to the head.
For the illegal infraction, Shanahan suspended Wisniewski for four preseason games and eight regular-season games. Then head coach of the Blue Jackets Scott Arniel was surprised at how long he was suspended for:
“It was a lot harsher than I was expecting, but there’s not much we can do about it. “We’ve got to move forward – they’ve made their decision. We’ve already put our best foot forward when it came to our side of the story, and obviously the League felt that, being a repeat offender, a blow to the head, that was the call that needed to be made.”
Wisniewski ended up forfeiting $536,585.36 of his salary for the suspension.
Dec. 7, 2011: Andy Sutton, Edmonton Oilers, $207,317.04
Over the last few seasons, the league and its fans are used to seeing the Andy Sutton, now on the Edmonton Oilers, on the NHL’s suspension or fine list.
That point was furthered when Sutton charged then Carolina Hurricanes forward Alexei Ponikarovsky.
Shanahan suspended Sutton for eight games for the illegal infraction. Edmonton Oilers general manager Steve Tambellini had this to say about Sutton’s suspension:
“Andy’s been a good player for us,” Tambellini said. “Unfortunately, he’s had a couple incidents where he’s been suspended. But he’s been a great teammate, a physical presence and he’s going to have to adapt his game to what the standards are now.”
Sutton forfeited $207,317.04 of his salary for the offense.
Jan. 3, 2012: Rene Bourque, Calgary Flames, $203,252.05
When an NHLer has a suspension history, the league will always keep a keen eye on him.
This was the case in January, when Flames forward Rene Bourque elbowed Washington Capitals forward Nicklas Backstrom to the head.
Unfortunately for the Capitals, Backstrom has not returned to the lineup since that hit.
Shanahan handed out a five-game suspension to Bourque for the elbow. Backstrom’s teammate, Alex Ovechkin, said it looked like Bourque was out to get Backstrom.
“It’s a hockey game and anything can happen,” Ovechkin said. “Sometimes this happen when you don’t want to do it. So it looks like he wants to do it.”
As a repeat offender, Bourque ended up forfeiting $203,252.05 of his salary.
Jan. 22, 2012: Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals, $154,677.75
There is no doubt that Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin has an abundance of offensive talent.
With that said, Ovechkin also has a bit of mean streak. The mean streak came out when he illegally hit Pittsburgh Penguins defenceman Zbynek Michalek to the head.
Shanhan suspended Ovechkin for three games for the infraction, and Ovechkin opted out of the All-Star Game because it occurred while he was a suspended player. Ovechkin said that on the play, he was just trying to get himself involved in the game physically.
“When you skate without hits, you’re just skating around. You’re not in the game.”
Ovechkin had to forfeit $154,677.75 for his hit on Michalek.
March 8, 2011: Mike Green, Washington Capitals, $85,135.14
It has been a tough season for Capitals defenceman Mike Green.
Green has missed 47 games this season due to injury and is now missing some more — not due to an injury but instead a suspension. Last week Green delivered an illegal hit to the head of Tampa Bay Lightning forward Brett Connolly.
Shanahan handed out a three-game suspension to the Green for the violation of NHL Rule 48. Luckily, Capitals head coach Dale Hunter is used to having Green out of the lineup.
“He’s been injured, so the team’s used to it because of the injury,” Hunter said Friday, before the league’s ruling was announced. “He’s mobile D, he can go back, get pucks, hook the net. We don’t spend as much time in our own end when he’s playing because he can skate so well and hook the net and make the outlet pass.”
Green had to forfeit $85,135.14 for the infraction on Connolly.
Sept. 20, 2011: Jodey Shelley, Philadelphia Flyers, $67,073.15
Flyers forward Jodey Shelley is no stranger to playing a rough style of hockey.
Shelley showed just that in a preseason game when he boarded Toronto Maple Leafs forward Darryl Boyce from behind.
Shanahan suspended Shelley for not only the remainder of the preseason, but also for the first five games of the regular season. Surprisingly, Leafs forward Jay Rosehill said he did not really think Shelley was a dirty player after fighting him after the hit on Boyce:
“I don’t know him as being a dirty player. I have never played against him where I had to do something like that. The fact is whether it was a dirty hit or not, a guy on my line went down. With our team, guys like that are going to have to answer to somebody.”
Shelley had to forfeit $67,073.15 of his salary for the illegal hit on Boyce.
Jan. 2, 2012: Daniel Carcillo, Chicago Blackhawks, $66,000
Hockey fans know that Blackhawks forward Daniel Carcillo plays with an edge and walks that fine line between being both a clean and dirty player.
Carcillo crossed the line over to the dirty side when he boarded Edmonton Oilers defenceman Tom Gilbert into the boards with a vicious hit.
Not only did Carcillo get a seven-game suspension for the boarding on Gilbert, but he was also injured for the season as he ended up hurting his knee in the process and thus required season-ending surgery. Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville said the following regarding Carcillo and the suspension:
“His track record probably didn’t help him at all or the fact that (Gilbert) got hurt… There’s a fine line that he’s going to have to watch and we’re going to have to be aware of as well. He plays hard, so we’ll deal with it.”
For the boarding offense, Carcillo forfeited $66,000 of his salary.
Oct. 28, 2011: Andy Sutton, Edmonton Oilers, $57,432.45
As we mentioned, Oilers defenceman Sutton is no stranger to being suspended by the NHL.
Sutton got it started early this season when, back on Oct. 28, he elbowed Colorado Avalanche rookie forward Gabriel Landeskog.
Following the five-game suspension handed out by Shanahan, Sutton responded.
“I have been informed of and understand the league’s decision, however, I had no intention of delivering an illegal check,” said Sutton. “For 14 years, I’ve always played the game with respect and integrity and I will continue to do so when I return.”
Sutton ended up forfeiting $57,432.45 of his salary for the illegal hit on Landeskog.
Safe to say that Sutton did not follow through on his words.
Nov. 17, 2011: Chris Stewart, St. Louis Blues, $46,621.62
St. Louis forward Chris Stewart is a player that usually plays within the rules of the game.
Back in November, however, Stewart stepped outside the rules and checked Detroit Red Wings defenceman Niklas Kronwall from behind.
Shanahan gave Stewart three games for his suspension. Blues general manager Doug Armstrong showed some support for Stewart after the suspension was handed out.
“It’s a situation that we accept and we move on with,” Armstrong said. “But I just want to be 100 per cent crystal clear that our support for the type of player Stewart is hasn’t wavered. He’s a very honest, hard player. This is a hockey play that went awry, but I don’t think it’s any reflection on the type of player that Chris Stewart is.”
For the illegal hit on Kronwall, Stewart forfeited $46,621.62 of his salary.
Oct. 28, 2011: Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Minnesota Wild, $44,108
“Keep your stick on the ice” is one of the most frequently used sayings in the game of hockey.
Unfortunately, Wild forward Pierre-Marc Bouchard failed to listen to that saying back on Oct. 28. In a game against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Bouchard high-sticked Jackets forward Matt Calvert.
Shanahan suspended Bouchard two games for the infraction. Bouchard said the following about the play:
“It was just a bad accident. It was just a battle there on the faceoff. He comes after me before the puck drops, and we go at it. I was going to whack him on the hands, but he lifted my stick and it hits him in the mouth. I’m not that kind of player. I was not aiming for his mouth.”
Bouchard ended up forfeiting $44,108 of his salary for the high-sticking infraction on Calvert.
Jan. 2, 2012: John Tortorella, New York Rangers, $30,000
Sometimes, NHL head coaches have a lot to say regarding the play of their team, the play of the opposition, and plays that went on throughout the course of the game.
It is when a coach deviates from those kind of topics that gets him into trouble, which is exactly what happened to New York Rangers head coach John Tortorella back on Jan. 2. After his team won the 2012 Winter Classic by a score of 3-2 over the Philadelphia Flyers, Tortorella spoke about the officiating in not so kind terms.
The NHL fined Tortorella $30,000 for his comments. While one cannot go back and change what they said, Tortorella did apologize for his comments.
“First of all, using the word disgusting wasn’t the proper way to go about it, talking about Denis and Ian. I was wrong there,” Tortorella said. “Second of all, my tongue-in-cheek comments regarding NBC, the league, the refs, and as far as what has come about here, people thinking ‘Was it fixed? Are you trying to get to overtime?’ — that type of thinking was not even in mind.
“They were sarcastic comments by me at the wrong time that turned this into… It was frustration on my part, as far as the referees were concerned and how it was done at the end of the game.”