Boston Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli told assembled media members that defenseman Andrew Ference won’t face a suspension for his high hit on Montreal Canadiens forward Jeff Halpern. You can find video footage of that questionable check at the bottom of this post.
Personally, I’m a bit torn on the hit. On one hand, it’s not as brutal as many of the worst hits we’ve seen so far during the playoffs. Ference didn’t hit him from behind or drive Halpern’s head into the boards.
Then again, that might just be “ugly hit fatigue” talking. It was still an unnecessary hit that left Halpern staggering and there was contact with his head. Beyond the fact that it was a shoulder to the head, the most troubling part of that play was that the puck wasn’t near either skater. It’s an ugly situation, but by no means the ugliest (which is sad, but still).
Ultimately, there are a few disturbing trends developing. Obviously, conspiracy theorists will point out that Ference theoretically benefited from his connection to the Bruins, a team that employs Colin Campbell’s son Gregory Campbell.
Speaking more realistically, though, there’s a troubling pattern of decisions by the NHL. It seems like a player can get away with far more late in a series than in its early games. Ference won’t face a suspension for a Game 7 hit, Milan Lucic didn’t get a suspension for a boarding hit in Game 6 and Mike Richards didn’t face a suspension for boarding Tim Connolly in Game 6 of the Sabres-Flyers series.
The Richards non-suspension is the most stomach-turning decision, but they all make the most jaded among us wonder if these decisions are truly coincidental.
Overall, I’m not outraged by this choice, at least in the context of the league’s laughably illogical suspension process. It’s not the worst hit of the playoffs, even if supplemental discipline would have been acceptable. Perhaps we’ll just have to live with the NHL’s baffling process and just try to enjoy the games, even as we watch players deal with unnecessary injuries.