The Department of Player Safety has decided that Paul Byron’s hit on MacKenzie Weegar was deserving of a suspension, and have issued a three-game ban to the Montreal Canadiens forward. The accompanying video explains exactly why the league felt three games was the appropriate punishment:
It is important to note that this is not a case where a player comes off the ice after contact due to the force of the hit. This is also not a case where slightly as part of a natural hitting motion when delivering a full-body hit into a larger player. Byron launches himself excessively upwards, coming off the ice to deliver the hit and in the process makes significant and forceful head contact. While we recognize that Weegar is turning as he makes a play on the puck, the onus is on Byron not to elevate excessively and launch into the hit.
Byron, not known by any standard as being a dirty player in the league, has released his own statement on the incident.
I accept and respect the decision made by the Department of Player Safety. I would like to make it clear I had no intention of causing injury or finishing my check through MacKenzie Weeger’s (sic) head. I think my history and the way I conduct myself on the ice show a lack of intent to injure other players. Despite the lack of intention, I have to accept responsibility for my hit and realize the result of the hit was to the head and caused injury. I would like to sincerely apologize for my hit and wish MacKenzie all the best and hope he is okay. I’ve learnt a lesson through this and will make sure any future hits result in a clean and legal fashion.
Though first-time offenders rarely get three games, the league also took into account that Weegar suffered an injury on the play. That will force Byron to sit out for a week, missing games against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Philadelphia Flyers and Arizona Coyotes. Unfortunately, that takes the Canadiens right up to the All-Star break and CBA mandated bye week, meaning he won’t actually be able to suit up for the team until February 2nd.