Shea Weber got in some extracurricular punching and shoving
The NHL playoffs got underway yesterday and the games were pretty great. Pittsburgh looked strong out of the gate, building a 3-0 lead over Philadelphia after one period, but the Flyers rallied to steal home-ice advantage with a 4-3 overtime win. The Presidents’ Cup winning Vancouver Canucks couldn’t keep the red-hot Kings at bay, falling 4-2 in Game 1 as they had to go without the services of their leading scorer Daniel Sedin, still out with a concussion. Then there was the Nashville-Detroit game, which saw the Predators jump out to a 1-0 series lead after a 3-2 victory behind Gabriel Bourque. But the final score isn’t really going to be talking point that comes out of last night’s matchup, because Shea Weber decided to try and put Henrik Zetterberg’s head through the plexi-glass during stoppage, which people find upsetting as it turns out.
As time wound down and the Predators were successfully killing a penalty to seal the victory, Zetterberg took a shot at Weber with a questionable check. Weber responded by taking a swing at the Red Wing forward, glancing the blow off his helmet. That, however, did not satisfy Weber’s thirst for retribution, so he proceeded to bash Zetterberg’s head into the boards like a pro wrestler bouncing their opponents’ head off the turnbuckle. At the scene, Weber was assessed a minor roughing penalty.
Meanwhile, the twitter-verse went nuts, calling Weber a thug and demanding for his immediate suspension. By all expectations, Weber looked to be unavailable for the next couple of games while he thought about what he did. It was a nationally televised game, the NHL has come down on extracurricular hits that could lead to head injuries, and the video is pretty ugly. That’s some bad intentions on Weber’s mind when he went after Zetterberg, and the league hasn’t been standing for that sort of thing, so a suspension is a no-brainer, right? Well, apparently not…
Nashville Predators defenseman Shea Weber has been fined $2,500, the maximum allowed under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, for delivering a blow to the head of Detroit forward Henrik Zetterberg in Game 1 of the teams’ Western Conference Quarterfinal series in Nashville on Wednesday, April 11, the National Hockey League’s Department of Player Safety announced today.
“This was a reckless and reactionary play on which Weber threw a glancing punch and then shoved Zetterberg’s head into the glass,” said NHL Senior Vice President of Player Safety and Hockey Operations Brendan Shanahan. “As is customary whenever Supplemental Discipline is being considered, we contacted Detroit following the game and were informed that Zetterberg did not suffer an apparent injury and should be in the lineup for Game 2.
“This play and the fine that addressed it will be significant factors in assessing any incidents involving Shea Weber throughout the remainder of the playoffs.”
Yes, Weber avoids suspension, pays a fine, and gets a very stern “Don’t do that” from the league office. The move is surprising since the scene was pretty ugly, but the NHL seems to think things looked much worse than they actually were. The punch barely made contact and the push against the glass didn’t do any damage, as Detroit fully expects Zetterberg to be starting again in Game 2, and it was a heat-of-the-moment retaliation for Zetterberg’s questionable shot right before hand. Plus, they put him on double-secret probation apparently, and it doesn’t get much more serious than that.
The decision to keep Weber on the ice rather than taking the hard-line stance of suspending him for any length of time shows that the league may be giving a little more leeway to the players since this is the playoffs and they want the best players to be out on the ice. Weber brushed off the significance of the incident as nothing more than “playoff hockey,” and it seems the league office agrees with him.
Would Weber have been suspended if this had been a game in December? Probably, but the league is much more inclined to “send a message” when the games don’t hold so much meaning. But does another player really have to get hurt to warrant a suspension even if the intent to injure is clear? While Weber was definitely trying to cause some harm, and not just showing Zetterberg first hand what a great job they do of cleaning the glass in Nashville, it was a dustup between two guys who were physical with each other during the game and neither came away hurt. It looked uglier than it did on TV and all over the internet because of the number of eyes on it and because they were up against the boards rather than skating around each other at center ice. Weber got by despite losing in the court of public opinion, but his leash is going to be short going forward for the rest of these playoffs.