“I have the option, I’m not going to appeal the suspension,” Scheifele told reporters Friday during his first media availability since the hit. “I don’t want to be a distraction to this team. I’m going to accept the punishment.”
The incident which led to his suspension happened in the final minute of the Montreal Canadiens‘ Game 1 win over the Jets.
With the Canadiens leading 4-3, Evans chased the puck into the Jets’ zone, and curled around the back of the net to score an empty-net goal. As Evans came around to the net-front, he was levelled by Scheifele, who’d skated from the Canadiens’ goal-line, down the length of the ice, and left his feet as he collided with Evans.
“My intention is to try and negate a goal,” Scheifele said. “No intent or malice there. Not trying to injure a hockey player. Not one charging penalty before this. My thought process is to cut him off at the post. My only thought is to prevent a goal. The result sucks.
“I’m more shocked than anything. I didn’t think it was a bad hit. I’m coming back to try to cut him off at the post. Trying to give our team a chance to win. I’ve never injured anyone in my entire career. So this hurts me, I have tremendous respect for my peers. One of those things I have to learn from and know there’s a plan for anything.”
This is the first suspension of the 28-year-old centre’s 10-year NHL career.
On Thursday, Canadiens head coach Dominique Ducharme confirmed that Evans suffered a concussion and — although he was doing better — would miss an undetermined amount of time.
“First and foremost the number one thing is Jake Evans’ health,” Scheifele said. “Reached out. He didn’t have to go to the hospital. I pray for a quick and speedy recovery for him and that he’s OK.”
Scheifele also went on to explain the fallout from the hit has extended beyond the ice in an ugly way.
“Another point I want to make is I can accept the punishment, I can accept the accountability – that’s what you sign up for being in the NHL – but the hate that my family has gotten, the bullying that they’ve gotten is completely unacceptable,” an emotional Scheifele said. “Online, phone calls, it’s pretty gross to see. My parents are the salt of the earth and for my parents to get hate like that, and my brother and sister, it’s awful. I can handle it. I’m a grown man and I’ve accepted that I can be held accountable for that but for my family to get that it hurts me a lot.”
With the four-game suspension ahead, the earliest Scheifele could return to the post-season would be Game 6, if the series extends that far.
“The result is what sucks,” Scheifele said of the hit on Evans. “What no one wants in this league. Obviously the league made their decision, I don’t agree with it. I keep going back to my record. One boarding penalty. No charging penalties. No more than 20 frickin’ hits a year. Intention is not to injure, it’s to prevent a goal. I think it’s excessive but what can you do. NHL has their own opinion.”