Saturday, October 19, 2013

NHL hits Lapierre with five-game suspension

Center is eligible to return to action Nov. 1 at Florida
following a boarding penalty that knocked out Sharks defenseman

ST. LOUIS -- The verdict has been handed down to Blues fourth-line center Maxim Lapierre, and the end result comes as no surprise to anyone.

After Lapierre and Blues general manager Doug Armstrong went to New York Friday to state Lapierre's case in front of the NHL Department of Player Safety -- in particular, DPS czar Brendan Shanahan -- the league came down with an iron fist.

Lapierre was suspended for five games for boarding San Jose Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle from behind in the first period of Tuesday night's game at Scottrade Center. The Sharks went on to win the game 6-2.
The incident occurred 5 minutes, 22 seconds into the first period. Lapierre was assessed a major penalty for checking from behind and a game misconduct as he pushed Boyle by the numbers, and the Sharks' defenseman's head and jaw collided heavily with the end boards.

(St. Louis Blues/Mark Buckner)
The Blues' Maxim Lapierre was suspended five games Friday for
his hit on San Jose's Dan Boyle Tuesday night.
Under the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement and, based on his average annual salary, Lapierre will forfeit $28,205.15, with the money going to the Players' Emergency Assistance Fund.

Lapierre already has served two games of this suspension -- Thursday at Chicago and Friday at Winnipeg. He will also miss games on Oct. 25 vs. Vancouver, Oct. 26 at Nashville and Oct. 29 at home against the Jets. He is eligible to return when the Blues play at Florida Nov. 1.

Shanahan, a former Blue, explains the decision that was rendered:

"As the puck is rimmed up the boards in the San Jose zone, Boyle goes back to reverse it behind his net. As he is doing so, Lapierre closes on him down the left wing wall. As Boyle goes to reverse the puck, his right toe makes contact with the yellow kick plate at the bottom of the boards, throwing him off balance.

While this is occurring, Lapierre uses his arms to finish him high in the back, causing Boyle's jaw to hit the blue dasher on top of the boards and knocking him unconscious. There are many things to consider on this this play."

Shanahan explains that Boyle, who was knocked out for several minutes before being taken by stretcher to Barnes-Jewish Hospital where he spent the night before going back to San Jose Wednesday, did lose his balance

"It's undeniable that Boyle's loss of balance just prior to contact made him much more vulnerable and contributed to the violent result," Shanahan said in the video. "However, at no point does Lapierre see anything other than Boyle's numbers when he decides to finish him on this check. What's more, despite the fact that Boyle's stumble might have contributed to his vulnerability, the fact remains if Lapierre does not illegally hit him in the numbers, Boyle's face does not crash violently into the boards."

Here is a clear definition of the boarding rule and its intent:

Boarding rule: The boarding penalty is less about the violent nature of the check and more about the violent and dangerous nature of the impact with the boards."

As (rule) 41.1 states, a boarding penalty shall be imposed on any player who checks or pushes a defenseless opponent in such a manner that causes the opponent to hit or impact the boards violently or dangerously," Shanahan said.

"So while we recognize that this was not an overly violent check, when you hit someone from behind in this manner, and you have seen his numbers for some time, depending on the circumstances, you might bear the responsibility for the outcome," Shanahan continued. "It's important to note that as the boarding rule also states, the circumstances of the check, including whether the opponent put himself in a vulnerable position immediately prior to or simultaneously with the check, or whether the check was unavoidable, can be considered. We considered it.

"And while it might mitigate some of the responsibility for the hit, it doesn't erase it entirely. To summarize, this was boarding. Boyle suffered a serious injury on the play. Although he is not classified as a repeat offender by the CBA, Lapierre was suspended once before for a similar act in 2010."

Lapierre, who made a public apology to a day after the incident after he tried to unsuccessfully call the defenseman after the game, said at the time he would accept any decision rendered.

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