New Jersey Devils forward Taylor Hall delivered a dangerous and blatant hit from behind on Buffalo’s Kyle Okposo Tuesday night. Hall only received a two-minute minor for the hit, possibly because Okposo was able to get to his feet and continue in the game.
The NHL Department of Player Safety reviewed the hit and decided to fine Hall $5,000.
Okposo did not agree with the reasoning that Hall would have received a heavier in-game punishment had Okposo gotten hurt on the play.
“I was not ready for contact at all,” he told Bill Hoppe. “If I stayed down then the ref says it’s a five(-minute penalty). But why should that matter? It’s a same play, in my opinion. I got up because I was mad. I was looking around for who did it, and I saw him, and it didn’t register. Like, was looking for somebody else.
“Obviously, I know him a little bit. I know he’s not that kind of player. But still, that was a bad hit. I didn’t turn or anything. I was going to get the puck, he buried me behind into the boards.”
There is, rightly, a lot of focus on head injuries and penalizing head shots in all pro sports and the NHL has taken an extra focus on those when it comes to supplementary discipline. There does not, however, appear to be the same fervour to send a message about hits from behind, which are dangerous and come with the possibility of devastating effects.
“That’s the play you’re trying to eliminate, right?” Okposo added. “There’s no place for that.”
At no point did Okposo have his shoulder or front turned in Hall’s direction. The Devils forward follows Okposo in, seeing the name on his back the whole way, and doesn’t let up before the hit. This one could have been especially bad, as Okposo was still a few feet away from the boards, not right up against them. It’s the most dangerous position to be in on the ice.
“I wasn’t expecting it at all. I absolutely thought it deserved to be a major,” Okposo told the Buffalo News. “I was in a vulnerable position and didn’t know a hit was coming. You’re five feet from the boards and that is a hit that is five (minutes) every time.”
Hall explained he thought the hit would be a shoulder-on-shoulder check and that the two-minute minor was the right call. “Would’ve been iffy if they called it five,” he said.
Hall scored what stood up as the game-winner in New Jersey’s 3-1 victory.