The Department of Player Safety has had their hearing with Boston Bruins forward David Backes and has opted not to be lenient with the respected veteran. Instead, Player Safety announced a three-game suspension for Backes, resulting from an “illegal check to the head” on New Jersey Devils forward Blake Coleman late in the third period of Thursday night’s game. The response from Player Safety is as follows:
As Coleman releases the puck, Backes delivers a shoulder to the head of Coleman, making the head the main point of contact, and knocking him to the ice. This is an illegal check to the head… (T)he brunt of the impact on this hit is delivered to Coleman’s head. It is also important to note that the head contact here was avoidable… If Backes wishes to deliver this check, he must take an angle of approach that hits Coleman’s shoulder and core. Instead Backes takes an angle of approach that cuts in front… making it the main point of contact.
Backes is a repeat offender by NHL standards, but also specifically for this type of hit. The power forward delivered a similar high hit to the head of Detroit Red Wings forward Frans Nielsen late last season and received a similar three-game suspension. At that time, a three games on his Backes’ violation seemed like a harsh penalty from Player Safety. This time around, so soon after the last incident and so similar in nature, anything less than three games likely would have been too lenient. The absence will also cost Backes approximately $220K.
Backes is set to miss a divisional bout with the Buffalo Sabres tomorrow night, as well as a tough match-up with the Calgary Flames on January 3rd, but Backes’ biggest regret is likely that he will not be able to participate in the Winter Classic on New Years Day, when the Bruins face the Chicago Blackhawks at Notre Dame Stadium. While this likely opens the door to young Bruins forward Anders Bjork earning a call-up in time to make a homecoming of sorts at his alma mater, the 34-year-old Backes may have cost himself his last chance to play in an outdoor game in his NHL career.