2018 Stanley Cup champion, Brett Connolly, will have a hearing with the NHL after delivering a terrible, but what appears to be, accidental, hit to Tanner Kero.
Connolly, now a member of the Chicago Blackhawks, hit Kero 3:02 into the first period.
Connolly appeared to anticipate Kero would play the puck along the boards. Instead, the Stars forward turned and began skating up the ice. Connolly drilled him in the head and chest in a bang-bang play.
Kero looked knocked out as he was falling backward toward the ice. He was motionless as he was tended to by trainers. Eventually, a medical crew wheeled Kero out on a stretcher.
Connolly was assessed a five-minute major for interference and was tossed from the game (game misconduct). Kero was taken to the hospital “for precautionary measures and evaluation” per NHL.com.
“It’s very upsetting to see one of your players laying on the ice like that,” Rick Bowness said, tearing up, after the game. “It gets emotional. They are part of your family and you see them injured. So it’s very difficult. I saw him moving his feet and arms so that was good. Gave him a little tap when he left the ice. We got good news right away that he was responsive. That’s hard for all the players on both sides. You saw both teams on the ice kneeling. We all play the game hard. We all play the game with physicality and emotion. That’s what we all love about the game. You just hate to see when it happens.
“I know Brett Connolly and I know he’s not a dirty player,” Bowness added. “I coached him in Tampa and he’s a great kid. It was just, s*** happens out there, man. That’s just hockey. Brett Connolly would never intentionally hurt anyone so I don’t hold that against him.”
When asked about the incident, Joe Pavelski broke down in tears and struggled to answer.
“It’s terrible,” Pavelski said. “I’ve been there before. My teammates rallied around me that night. I don’t know. Tanner’s awesome. He’s soft-spoken. He shows up and works hard. He doesn’t miss a day. When he gets called upon to play, he shows up and makes great plays. He plays hard. He’s a great teammate. That win is definitely for him. We’ll just say our prayers for a speedy recovery. It sucks.”
It’s unclear how the Department of Player Safety will rule in this case. Everyone seems to agree Connolly’s hit was an accident and he anticipated wrong, but damage to Kero was still done. Former NHL official Tim Peel predicted that Conno would get a five-game ban for the play, but reiterated there was no malice in what happened.
I don’t disagree but Brett Connolly is not a dirty player. I refereed him his entire career, he thought the Dallas player was going to get the puck!
— Tim Peel (@TimCPeel20) December 19, 2021
7:40 PM Update: Brett Connolly was suspended four games by the NHL’s Department of Player Safety.
Chicago’s Brett Connolly has been suspended for four games for Interference on Dallas’ Tanner Kero. https://t.co/6g23ix1zDh
— NHL Player Safety (@NHLPlayerSafety) December 20, 2021
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