Washington Capitals winger Donald Brashear was given a one-game suspension for his pre-game altercation with New York's Colton Orr, and a five-game suspension for a "shoulder hit to an unsuspecting player," Blair Betts, according to Collin Campbell, NHL Senior Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations.

Betts has a fractured orbital bone and is out indefinitely.

Brashear's suspension will be served beginning tomorrow night when the Capitals meet the Rangers in Game 7 of the series. The suspension will extend through the Capitals' next five 2009 playoff games, the 2009-10 regular season, or both, as circumstances warrant.

Here is the play in question:

While it's fairly obvious the check was late, it's otherwise a perfectly legal shoulder check. Brashear's elbow comes up after the contact, it's not what initiated the contact. Brashear also obviously wanted to go after Aaron Voros, but Voros went straight to the bench and Betts was the next Ranger in the area.

The hit was vicious and late, but was it illegal? Neither referee on the ice thought so--the only penalty on Brashear was for the roughing with Paul Mara after the play. Could it be that the resultant injury made the act less defensible in the mind of Collin Campbell? That's not right.

Betts was seriously injured on the play, but you know what could have avoided this? Betts keeping his head up. He had just dumped the puck and turned to go to the bench. He let his guard down in what has been a very tight-checking series.

Here's another quote from Campbell:

"It is also my opinion that the hit was delivered late and targeted the head of his opponent, causing significant injury."

"Targeted the head"? You mean like Orr clothes-lining Alexander Semin in Game Five?

Let's parse the last part of the quote: "causing significant injury." He did not say "with the intent to cause serious injury." Campbell effectively admits, in his choice of words, that he is penalizing Brashear for causing the injury, not for his intent. Again, this is wrong. It's not how the rule is supposed to be upheld.

If Betts was simply dazed, or even concussed, but not had his orbital bone broken, would we still be taking about five games?

While we're on the subject of "cheap shots", was this any worse than Brandon Dubinsky boarding Mike Green from behind? Dubinsky was given 14 minutes of penalty, including the game misconduct.

Was Brashear's hit worse than Sean Avery butt-ending Milan Jurina in Game Four, bloodying his nose and cheek. Or Avery high-sticking Brian Pothier in the same game, a player just returning from missing a year with concussion symptoms. In both instances, Avery not only intended to injury, but in butt-end instance, actually did injure. Shouldn't Avery, by Campbell's own carefully chosen words, be suspended for his hit on Jurcina in that case?

Wait, though. Game Four wasn't on NBC.

Or is this a case of Campbell caving in to Glen Sather's ridiculous e-mail after his coach's heinous actions in Game Five, where John Tortorella threw a water bottle into a group of fans, injuring a woman, and brandishing a stick in the direction of fans?

Tortorella received a one-game suspension, but Sather's long-winded letter, a letter he allowed published in the media, accused the Verizon Center staff of allowing mistreatment of the Rangers coaches and players. Basically, the fans were calling the players and coaches names, and Tortorella responded by throwing things into the stands.

So was Brashear's suspension affected by Sather's public letter of condemnation and the media attention it has received? It would appear so, since the on-ice officials didn't think the hit warranted a penalty.

"Make-up" calls happen all the time in hockey. This one is simply ridiculous.


  1. Dan, Jr. // April 28, 2009 at 6:05 PM  

    I agree with all the points you make in this post. Excellent job.

    It was almost funny to see Voros put that late hit on Brash and then run away like the chicken he is.

    Brash may have been just a little late with his hit too, but it certainly wasn't a dirty hit. He never made contact with the head. It's a shame Betts was hurt, but it may have happened when he hit the ice.

    The length of the suspension definitely had to do with the injury, although it shouldn't. I'm sure it was also affected by the fact that it was on national TV and the injured player is a member one of Bettman's favorite teams.