The NHL Department of Player Safety is not in the business of going easy on rookies. The league has announced a two-game suspension for Colorado Avalanche defenseman Jacob MacDonald for an illegal hit to the head. The incident in question took place during Wednesday night’s season series finale with the Minnesota Wild, with MacDonald targeting a defenseless Ryan Hartman in the first period. Player Safety described the hit as follows:
MacDonald delivered a high, forceful hit to [Hartman] that picked his head, making it the main point of contact on a hit where such contact was avoidable… MacDonald, arriving on the backcheck, delivers a high hit that cuts across the front of Hartman and picks his head. This is an illegal check to the head… While MacDonald does make some contact with Hartman’s chest, MacDonald’s shoulder hits through Hartman’s jaw and it is the head that absorbs the brunt of the impact… [Hartman] does not change the position of his head or body in any way that contributes to the head being the main point of contact. If MacDonald wants to deliver this check, he must take an angle of approach that hits through Hartman’s shoulder and core rather than one that cuts across the front of his body and makes the head the main point of contact.
The league notes that MacDonald does not have any history of fines or suspensions in his short NHL career (or in the AHL for that matter) but it didn’t stop them from sitting him for two games as discipline for a dangerous hit. The goal is likely to show a young player that actions have consequences, even when the on-ice officials missed the call. MacDonald was not assessed a penalty, when he likely should have received a game misconduct in the first period, so this likely contributed to his suspension being two games rather than just one, even as a first offense.
The 27-year-old has admirably worked his way from an undrafted prospect at Cornell University, through a number of years in the AHL and ECHL, to a regular role on the blue line this season for one of the league’s best teams. Colorado will have to survive without him for two games – fortunately against the lackluster Anaheim Ducks – but MacDonald has proven himself to be a reliable defenseman and should be back in the lineup as soon as he is eligible. His first bad decision as a pro should not impact MacDonald much as long as he keeps it clean moving forward.