The NHL commissioner has reviewed the facts and conducted a hearing with Jakub Voracek and his NHLPA representatives, but does not believe the two-game suspension was unwarranted. Gary Bettman released his decision today to uphold the ban, given to Voracek for an incident with Johnny Boychuk in a game on March 9th. Voracek has already missed one game for the Philadelphia Flyers, and will be forced to sit out tomorrow night as well. He will also forfeit more than $88K in salary. From the decision:
While I accept Mr. Voracek’s explanation that he thought Mr. Boychuk was going to initiate a check, the video makes it clear that it was Mr. Voracek who initiated the contact. At the hearing, it was acknowledged that Mr. Voracek had other options available to him, but instead Mr. Voracek moved into Mr. Boychuk’s path by taking a step to the left and driving upwards into Mr. Boychuk. The onus was on Mr. Voracek to avoid causing a significant blow to Mr. Boychuk’s head. The force was significant enough to cause Mr. Boychuk to require medical attention on the ice and he did not return for the balance of the game. It is worth acknowledging that during his long career in the NHL, Mr. Voracek has maintained a strong character and a clean record with no prior supplemental discipline history. However, that does not absolve Mr. Voracek of the responsibility to play this game in a safe manner in accordance to the applicable rules.
The decision also explains how Voracek would not have appealed a one-game suspension, and that he was seeking a reduction to that level. These kind of short-term suspensions are never appealed in this manner and as Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet points out, they can not be taken to an independent arbitrator now that Bettman has made his ruling. Obviously Voracek believed he was being unfairly punished, especially given his lack of discipline history.
Philadelphia will now have to hope they can take down the Washington Capitals tomorrow night without one of their key offensive pieces, a task that quite literally could decide their season. The team is currently sitting five points behind the Columbus Blue Jackets for the final wild card spot and can’t afford to slip any further in the standings.