Saturday night, San Jose Sharks defenseman Erik Karlsson found himself in some hot water after landing a huge check on Los Angeles Kings forward Austin Wagner.
The second-period hit went unpenalized, but the NHL’s Department of Player Safety tweeted after the game that Karlsson would have a hearing on Sunday.
Sunday afternoon, DoPS announced their verdict. Karlsson would be suspended two games for what they termed “an illegal check to the head.” This is the first supplemental discipline Karlsson has received since being fined for a slash during the 2011-12 season.
During the play, Wagner cuts through center ice and takes a pass from this teammate. DoPS stated that Karlsson made Wagner’s head the main point of when such contact was avoidable.
Karlsson, in his defense, explained that he tried to deliver a full-body hit, but DoPS concluded that a majority of the hit went to the head and not the shoulder.
“Wagner does not materially change the position of his head or body in a way that significantly contributes to the head being the main point of contact,” they stated in their announcement video, adding that Karlsson needs to make the hit through Wagner’s core and not high up.
Wagner appears very woozy while skating off the ice after the hit. He eventually went to the dressing room and didn’t return.
Under the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement and, based on his average annual salary, Karlsson will forfeit $69,892.48.
The language DoPS used on Karlsson’s hit is similar to how they’ve rationaled suspensions for Tom Wilson in the past. While Wilson many times aims for clean hits to the shoulder, the Capitals forward will slide up and a majority of the contact will be to the opposing player’s head. The suspension on Karlsson, who is a notoriously clean player, shows that DoPS has little tolerance for unnecessary open-ice hits like these that result in likely head injuries.
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