Michael Matheson says ‘it wasn’t my intent’ to injure Elias Pettersson

Matheson says he's 'definitely disappointed' with suspension on Pettersson, had no malicious intent but understands the leagues decision. The Panthers defenceman also says he texted Pettersson and the Canuck responded. Courtesy: Florida Panthers.

When the NHL decided to suspend Florida Panthers defenceman Michael Matheson two games for hitting and then throwing Vancouver’s Elias Pettersson to the ice last Saturday, it left many hockey fans divided.

On the one hand, some thought Matheson was being disciplined for being the bigger, stronger player. Pettersson is listed at 6-foot-2, 176 pounds and Matheson at 6-foot-2, 193 pounds. It was a one-sided physical battle, end of story.

On the flip side, many didn’t see this as a hockey play. NHL Player Safety agreed and sat down Matheson because, as described in the explainer video, “after his natural hitting motion has stopped Matheson intentionally and dangerously slams Pettersson directly into the ice.”

Another factor in the suspension was a play that happened a little earlier in the shift. Pettersson made a spin move past Matheson, causing the defenceman to lose his footing and fall over. It was thought this contributed to Matheson’s frustration and built up to the hit.

Speaking about the suspension for the first time since it was issued, Matheson said that while he was disappointed with the league’s decision, he understood how it was made after seeing replays. He said he’s fully on board with protecting players from head injuries, but disagrees there was ill-intent at the root of this play.

“I know deep down there was no frustration in me when that play happened and there was no intent to injure on my part,” Matheson told the media. “It was an unfortunate event.”

Pettersson is expected to miss at least one more game with a concussion, though could be out longer than that.

“It wasn’t my intent and it wasn’t at all what I meant to do,” Matheson continued. “At every level I’ve never been a malicious player or someone that goes around trying to hurt players because I expect to receive the same respect in return and that’s not what hockey’s about.

“He’s a skilled player and he makes good plays and you have to respect that. When you’re in a battle with somebody you want to play them hard and make sure that they can’t beat you back to the net, and get good body position on them. And so there was no point in my frame of mind where I was thinking ‘oh I gotta injure this guy.’ It was part of the game and it was just a hockey play where I think the fact I came into the boards and went stick on puck and my stick kinda got stuck in there, propped him up a little bit too much, and that’s probably what led to what happened afterwards.”

Matheson’s recorded hit totals on NHL.com from his first two seasons are 69 and 53 and the 61 penalty minutes he registered last season was the highest of any level he’d played at since 2012-13, when he had 79 PIMs for Boston College. He’s never been suspended at any level, nor does he have a history of making bad hits.

The 24-year-old defenceman said he reached out to Pettersson.

“I texted him the day after just to reach out and apologize and see how he’s doing,” Matheson said. “He texted me back. He just said thanks for reaching out.”


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