Upshall suspended 1 game at hockey worlds
Canada's Scottie Upshall now knows first-hand that Europe and the NHL deal differently with hits to the head.
Upshall was handed a five-minute major and match penalty in the second period of Sunday's game against Hungary at the world championship when he collided at centre ice with Andras Beck, who broke his collarbone on the play.
The referee ruled that Upshall's actions constituted a hit to the head and assessed the match penalty, which includes an automatic one-game suspension. Upshall could have faced further discipline but international officials reviewed the incident and were satisfied with the one-game suspension
"We understand the rules coming in and we understand it crossed the criteria of the rules here and we accept the punishment and move forward," said general manager Doug Armstrong.
Unlike the NHL, European officials come down hard on hits to the head and have basically a zero-tolerance policy for anyone who head-hunts or who does not take appropriate action to stop them from ringing someone's bell, such as Upshall's collision.
Upshall to sit out Tuesday's game
It's highly unlikely Upshall would have received more than a two-minute minor penalty had the game been between two NHL teams and not Canada-Hungary at the 2009 world hockey championship.
Upshall will sit out Tuesday's game against Slovakia, and the discipline highlights another difference between the NHL and Europe.
The NHLPA has tried to get the NHL to get more serious about eliminating hits to the head.
In May, NHLPA executive-director Paul Kelly proposed a rule that would give referees the ability to immediately punish players who deliberately target the heads of opponents.
Currently those hits are mostly handled with supplemental discipline by the league but Kelly wanted a specific rule to discourage open-ice shoulder and elbow hits to the head.
The NHLPA proposed a ban similar to the NHL's current rule on hits from behind. While penalties such as interference and boarding can also address these types of hits, the NHLPA proposal specifically targeted shoulder shots to the head.
The NHL disagreed and rejected Kelly's proposal.
Ruff said contact was accidental
At practice on Monday, Canada coach Lindy Ruff said he knew the rules coming in and said the contact was accidental.
"Part of his (Upshall's) role in the NHL is what he did and it is tough to ask a guy to pull back and we were asking guys to pull back a little bit," said Ruff. "But it is not easy when you have role players do what they do."
Ruff said the hit reminded him of the hit Doug Weight of the New York Islanders landed on Carolina's Brendan Sutter in October. Sutter had his head down and was reaching for the puck when Weight popped him in the head with his shoulder. Weight was not suspended by the NHL
"I do not think you can take that out of the game," said Ruff. "That is one thing that will take a fan out of his seat."
Upshall said he was just finishing his check.
"He lost the puck when I was finishing my check and he put himself in a vulnerable position," said Upshall.
Upshall is not new to international hockey and knew the consequences of his actions.
"My intent was not to hurt the guy and it was disappointing," he said.
Joel Kwiatowski, who played in Russia this season, will take Upshall's roster spot against Slovakia. He will play defence and Ian White will move to forward.