After His Hit On Brent Seabrook, Should James Wisniewski Be Suspended?

Jim Neveau, Blackhawks Correspondent

After a game that saw Brian Campbell get absolutely demolished by Alex Ovechkin, the Blackhawks are once again at the center of a controversial hit.

In the second period of a game with big implications for both squads, the Chicago Blackhawks and Anaheim Ducks were tied at one piece early in the second period. On a play behind the Chicago goal, Brent Seabrook got a piece of Anaheim forward Corey Perry and sent him sprawling into the boards. Seeing this happen, James Wisniewski decided that it would be a good time to get revenge on his former teammate:

To be fair here, the hit on Perry looked really bad as it happened in live action. It looked like Seabrook hit a defenseless Perry headfirst into the boards and sent him sprawling. That being said, when you slow that play down, it’s pretty apparent that Perry loses a bit of an edge, and Seabrook is already lining up the hit, so the result looked worse than it actually was. It was a clean hit that looked dirty, to be pithy.

Getting back to the hit by Wisniewski, it boils down to this: James is irritated that his teammate has just been sent sprawling by a hit, and decides to line up Seabrook for a hit. This is all well and good (and within the code of conduct amongst NHL players), but while the intention may have been good, the end result was anything but.

After banging his head into the boards, Seabrook did stay on the Chicago bench for a little while, but was eventually removed from the game. There is no word yet on his condition, and with the Blackhawks scheduled to play in Los Angeles tomorrow night, it remains a strong possibility that the Hawks will have to recall a forward (likely Jake Dowell or Jack Skille) to replace Dustin Byfuglien as he gets shifted to the blue line to replace Seabrook.

Blackhawks Down: Campbell and Seabrook (Pam Rodriguez/THW)

Before we get back to whether the hit should result in a suspension, we first need to call out Ducks color man Brian Hayward for his comments while watching the replay of the hit. He accused Seabrook of “selling it”, and while a little bit of homerism is to be expected from a team’s announcing crew, his assessment that Seabrook was somehow faking that he had been knocked back to the 20th century is laughable.

Speaking of laughable, Paul Devorski and Ian Walsh ought to be ashamed of themselves for the call leveled out on this hit. On a play where Wisniewski clearly skated all the way from the blue line to behind the net to hit a player who didn’t have the puck at any point during the play, all he got was a two minute charging penalty. That was it. No five minute major for boarding. No game misconduct for intent to injure. No nothing. If anything, Wisniewski should have also been issued a penalty for interference, considering that Seabrook never possessed the puck after hitting Perry.

If the NHL is ever to be taken seriously (or at least not treated like a niche sport) then inconsistent officiating of the type that we saw this evening has to be eliminated.

Finally, however, we come back to the man of the hour. Mr. Wisniewski not only proved himself to possess extremely poor judgment, but he also did several things on this check that could easily be considered suspension worthy offenses by Colin Campbell.

For starters, there was the malicious nature of the play. Wisniewski clearly sought out Seabrook as punishment for his hit on Perry, and clearly tried to hit Brent in the head on the play. With Seabrook that close to the boards, he not only took the blow to the front of his body, but also to the back of his head when it nailed the glass. That jarring of the head usually results in concussions, and from the look on Seabrook’s face after the play (and the fact he didn’t return to the game), that’s very well what may have happened.

(Pam Rodriguez/THW)

The maliciousness of the play certainly can be termed “intent to injure”, and while the officials on the ice may not have seen it that way through their incorrectly prescriptioned contact lenses, Campbell has the benefit of seeing the play unfold on replay when he decides whether or not to dish out punishment.

Another element of the hit was the fact that it appeared Wisniewski left the ice right before impact. Normally, on plays like this the player only leaves the ice on the follow through of the check, but in this instance, it certainly looks like Wisniewski jumped into Seabrook and drilled him into the boards, another no-no when it comes to deciding discipline. The two minute charging penalty that was called hardly did justice to how violent the collision was. With that much speed and momentum carrying him at Seabrook, leaving his feet simply maximized the damage when Wiz collided with Brent’s head.

Finally, there is the matter of the comments that some Anaheim players, including Wisniewski, made after the game that gives Campbell one more reason to punish the defenseman. While it isn’t out of the ordinary for a player to defend himself against charges of a dirty play, the lengths that several members of the Ducks went to defend the hit are absolutely absurd.

“He’s one of my really close friends”, Wisniewski said of Seabrook.  “You don’t like to see that. I thought he had the puck so I finished my check. I was already down there, so I pinched in and that’s what happened.”

Having already stated that Seabrook never possessed the puck after hitting Perry, it’s probably better just to move on to the next quote:

Brent Seabrook (Pam Rodriguez/THW)

“I didn’t do anything wrong. The result of what happened isn’t good, but there wasn’t anything wrong that I did.”

Leave out the fact that you left the ice, intended to drive Seabrook through the glass and into the lap of the good fans of Anaheim (they really are passionate. That wasn’t sarcasm), and drilled him in the head, and yeah, it could be surmised that you didn’t do anything wrong.

The lack of remorse that Wisniewski is feeling is appalling. If Seabrook were truly one of his close friends, there is no way that he would intentionally try to hurt him. The fact that he did simply drives home the point that he was gunning for a headshot to knock Seabrook out of the game, and that he needs to be suspended.

Todd Marchant had another nugget of wisdom to add to the proceedings when he said “Seabrook saw him coming, and he’s the one that hits Pears in the head. James came in and stood up for his teammates. I hate to say it, but that’s the way it was years ago.”

Just because a dirty play would have happened years ago doesn’t mean it was right then, and it certainly isn’t right now. Marchant’s “I walked uphill both ways to school in the snow” logic in this situation is entirely insensitive, and also displays a stunning lack of common sense.

In addition, why on Earth did Wisniewski have to defend Perry’s honor? The last time I checked, Perry is one of the most physical forwards in the game, and routinely racks up penalty minutes like Tiger Woods racks up mistresses. He is more than capable of enacting his own physical revenge later on, and likely wouldn’t result to a complete cheap shot to do it.

Finally, there was respected Ducks coach Randy Carlyle, who said of his defenseman after the game “Wisniewski had two fights tonight. He probably was the first star in our mind. This was probably his best game as a Duck.”

It’s refreshing to know that a player nearly decapitates another player, and that it was his best game as a Duck. Not sure whether we should be mocking James for his poor play if this was truly his best game in over a season as a Duck, or if we should be checking Carlyle into a psych ward for an evaluation after a statement like that.

For people who think the NHL is nothing but legalized street fighting, and that violence is the only reason guys suit up and people show up to watch, Carlyle’s logic must reinforce their opinions. Giving a guy top honors because he got into two fights and knocked another player out of the game with a dirty check reeks of asinine detachment from reality, and Carlyle needs to measure his words more carefully before he reinforces more negative stereotypes with his out of touch statements.

Ovechkin Got Two as a Repeat Offender...How About Wisniewski? (Wikipedia)

Now, we have come to the moment of truth. Surely you have noted by the tone of this article that I believe that Wisniewski should be suspended. Some in the Blackhawks fanbase are insistent that Wisniewski should be suspended for 10 games, or for the rest of the season, but there really isn’t a lot to back up either of those suspension lengths. Instead, we’ll dish out the suspension length based on the variables listed above:

-For leaving his feet on the check, Wisniewski should get a one game suspension.

-For willfully trying to injure another player, Wisniewski should get two games tacked onto his suspension.

-When the fact he’s already been suspended this season for a hit on Shane Doan is factored in, that should tack on another game.

-Finally, for the complete lack of respect and common sense illustrated by Wisniewski after the game, and the image that it portrays of the NHL as a whole, there should be one more game tacked onto the suspension.

Added together, it is my opinion that Wisniewski should be suspended for five games for his reckless hit on Brent Seabrook. He can claim all he wants that the hit was clean and that he wants to smooch all over Brent’s face, but when push comes to shove, the fact of the matter is that it was a dirty hit by a guy looking to make a statement.

His vile attempt to injure Seabrook should not go unpunished by the NHL, and if the owners and GMs are serious about trying to clean up the game, then this would be an excellent place to start.

If Wisniewski somehow avoids suspension for this hit, Colin Campbell needs to do the hockey world a favor and turn in his rulebook to Gary Bettman’s desk. It would be the ultimate dereliction of duty if Campbell lets Wisniewski skate unscathed from this incident, and it would be yet another black eye for a sport that can’t seem to lift itself off the canvas.

James Neveau

James Neveau

James started out for The Hockey Writers covering the Atlanta Thrashers in 2009, and has also covered the Chicago Blackhawks, served as NHL Correspondent, and is now a Managing Editor and the site's NHL Central Blogger. He also writes for The Golf Writers.

20 Comments

  1. Anybody that has played the game knows when its a cheapshot or good hit. Any cheapshot, no matter to what part of the body a suspension should go along with it. These guys do this for their living, they know how, when and where to hit. Some guys just are cement heads. I’m still playing the game and I’m in my 50′s and there’s still guys out there thinking they’re going to get their shot in the NHL. I guess you can’t teach old dogs new tricks …..

    • Yep…it is true that you know the difference between a cheapshot and a good hit. Don’t give in yet Carl…Gordie played till he was 52…you still got it man! :-)

  2. Yeh G…not ever cool to want to end a guys career but bottom line…NOBODY thinks I’m gonna end this guys career…all yer thinking is I’m gonna drill him…not injure him. I know…I’ve been on both sides of the hit. And yes, there are times when ya think about it after the game and think…man, I wish I hadnt done that. Like last friday when I nailed a guy and 2 minutes later I was laying on my back cuz he lit me up…I just laughed to myself and thought…well, I asked for that one:-)

    I recently saw about 4 of the same exact kind of hits from Cooke so in his case I think he’s found a way to nail guys by sneaking up behind them as they look back for the puck…NOT OK…a cheap shot and if I was the league I’d give him about 20 games.

    As for the Wiz hit…he should probably get 5 at least…but I seriously doubt he thought much more than…”I’m not gonna let you get away with going at the head of one of my teammates” OR “Well I’ll go high on you too”

  3. Andrew Knoll says:

    I was at this game right on top of the play, horrendous.

    The initial hit on Perry was not a penalty, the rule clearly gives discretion to the official on a hit from behind to not call a penalty if the player turns his body to protect the puck or take the check. The hit was shoulder to body on a player carrying the puck and while it was high and did send Perry’s head into the glass it was absolutely a hockey play. It was rightfully not called a penalty.

    Wisniewski, on a play where a defenseman would normally exit the zone, comes barreling in and blasts a guy after the puck is gone. Textbook charging major, I think. He leaves his feet and while it was also to the chest he lifts him headfirst into the glass. Clear retaliation, clear intent to injure and not a hockey play there. He should get the gate for at least a game, maybe two or three.

  4. I agree with Hawks coach Quenneville. Someone is going to get killed with all that this league is allowing. The Seabrook hit is hard to watch, really sickening what that jerk Wisniewski did. He has the gall to say he did nothing wrong. When you ruin someone’s season deliberately, you did something wrong. But he obviously doesn’t care despite his claim of being friends with Seabrook.

    Jim – I agree. Canada and US played the game well. Checking is fine, that is a part of hockey I have always enjoyed. But trying to end your opponent’s career like Cooke, Ovechkin and this other jackass Wisniewski have done just in the last week or so? NOT OKAY!!! I don’t care what the macho announcers or NHL commissioners want to say. The sport continues to deteriorate and I fear for the next players who get injured or worse.

  5. Did anybody watch hockey during the Olympics? Those games were clean and some of the best games I’ve seen all season. They were more about skill than physicality, although that factored in as well. Hockey is a physical sport, but that doesn’t mean it’s to be played like roller derby.

    • My question is did YOU watch the Olympics? They were hitting like mad dogs…in the US/Canada games if you had the puck you got nailed after a stride or two. The reason is it was so incredible to watch was because of the perfect blend of all out mayhem and at the same time ridiculous skating and passing skills. It was the best of both.

      These Olympics played on the smaller ice made for great hockey in tight quarters requiring great ice sense, quickness and speed…and solid checks that were being finished all over the ice. I’m with ya…it was physical…and fast…and beautiful to watch…THAT’S what causes first time hockey watchers to marvel and say…”Wow…what a sport! “

      • Not the first time watching by far. I’m trying to get back into the game actually. The key point I’m trying to make is in Vancouver they were good, solid hits. When I was watching the Olympics, I thought “good hit or good play”. In recent years I watch the NHL and think, “MMA on skates.” Hard hits that may or may not be on the puck and only accomplish taking themselves out of plays down the ice. But hey, it makes for exciting TV I guess and it gets the rink fans on their feet. /shrug

        • Well…thats cool to hear you’re trying to get back in the game. The Vancouver games were definitely solid hits but even at the Olympics there were some really hard shots where guys lined up defenseman coming around the back of the net with their heads down etc. that could have been deemed really dangerous but nobody stayed down…so they just dont get noticed by the average fan. But as a hockey player I knew that if I was in that game I BETTER have my head up or its lights out:-)

          Ovie got Jagr with his head down and as Don Cherry says…”Whammmo” It’s a bummer that local news reports usually dont show alot of the scoring etc. and so it only makes sense that many have an MMA impression of the NHL.

          In the NHL you dont see alot of hitting until the playoffs are coming up…regular season games are generally pretty tame until the last 5 min…

          Hope you enjoy getting back into a great game:-)

  6. Lemme get this straight…insensitive, vile, appalling? Are we talking about hockey here or Dancing With the Stars? If it’s a cheap hit give him 5 or 10 and a game but realize that hockey isn’t ping pong…it’s a sport played at breakneck speeds and emotions run high and you don’t have time to “evaluate” every situation in the heat of the moment.

    Lets not forget that Seabrook just finished drilling Perry too(he tried to but only got a piece of him)…thats hockey man…get over it.

    I think Wiz should have just dropped the gloves and dropped Seabrook that way…

    Boy, I hope I never get into a bar fight with this author as a friend…cuz he wont have my back or defend me…go play ringette with the girls you panzie.

  7. Wuss should also get another game because he came all the way from the blue line. Straight from the blue line to the boards, no stopping in between, no attempt to get the puck, no pinching in for a potential one-timer. The really laughable part of all of this was the refs call on the play. Rewatch the video, the ref is standing right in front of Seabrook. Wuss’s hands were so high up into Seabrook’s face, the ref had to be blind to miss it. And then the ref issues offsetting minor penalties that didn’t result in a BlackHawks Power Play!

    These refs were so bad that near the end of the game, a puck was shot at the hawks net and bounced very high into the air. Sopel camped out underneath the puck to catch it, and was pushed from behind and sent spawling onto his stomach. The puck landed in front of the hawks net and resulted in a goal, but no penalty was called.

    As a lifelong haws fan, I do have to say they are not one of the elite teams in the league. They haven’t had a great game since the first half of the season. The second half of the season most of their wins have come in overtime or in shootouts, so they are not overwhelming anyone. Also, they have no team grit. Their lack of response against the Campbell hit and the Seabrook hit is embarassing.

    • Andrew Knoll says:

      Yeah the matching minors were absurd, Wisniewski should have been accessed a boarding major, a game misconduct and a fighting major. The late non-interference call on the loose puck leading to the goal was also a joke but I cannot blame the Ducks for going for broke. They are in a desperate spot, that was a failure on the part of the officials.

      As for Chicago, Keith stepped in and fought Wisniewski and right after the empty netter Boynton sought him out for another tilt. I thought they stood up for Seabrook pretty well.

      Overall, they have lost some steam but they still are probably the best skating team in the league and have plenty of depth. I would not be eager to face them in the playoffs.

  8. “It’s a physical sport,” defenseman James Wisniewski said. “It’s like the head shots in football. All you can do is try to suspend guys and take money from them. That usually makes people stop doing what they’re doing.”

    That was a quote from last week!!

  9. The only way the NHL can be taken seriously is if they truely want to market the talent and not the mayhem/violence of the game. Until that happens and you can muzzle the old boys club from 20-30 years ago who make up a pile of GM’S, Coaches and tv Analysts, who are worried about ” pansification” of the game instead of the overall product of the sport and well being of their players, nothing is going to change. I agree with you that Wisniewski should have received a major for charging, a misconduct and should serve a lengthy suspension. But with recent incidents involving Lapierre, Cooke, and Ovie will you be suprised that Wiz only gets a slap on the wrist?

  10. Kevin Hunter says:

    Wisniewski came full blast from the blue line with Seabrook as his target regardless of where the puck was. It was retaliation for a prior hit on Perry that was a hockey play. Any intent to injure should be called what it is and the suspensions handed out should be much longer than those being levied now. It is strange to listen to the argument of whether it should be two or three or five games. Obviously the current method of dealing with these hits is having zero effect. The league decides to wait until summer to change the rule? We need some people running the league who do not have blinders on.

  11. Of course it was a stupid move because he was looking for revenge, obviously not caring wether or not seabrook had the puck. In terms of hockey, it was clearly a violation.

  12. It’s getting to the point where every night something like this happens.

    First, yes the “Wiz” needs to be suspended, minimum five games. If not the NHL is really making a terrible mistake and this problem will continue to evolve.

    Second, great point about Perry being able to defend himself. Maybe Seabrooke’s hit was borderline, still Perry can fight his own battles.

    Last, get rid of the instigator rule, and I would bet that most of this crap goes away. Drop the gloves, fight it out, and it’s over.
    That’s how they used to do it in “the old days”, if you want to compare.

    As for Randy Carlyle, you disappoint me with your comments. As an ex-player, you should know better.

  13. Pingback: James Wisniewski Should be Suspended for Stupidity | The Hockey Writers

  14. Oh sure, point out that Hazy thought he was “Selling it” but thoughtfully neglect to point out that Hazy retracted that statement and apologized about it after he got to watch replays. Nice reporting.

    Wiz will be suspended don’t worry about it, he’s a Duck. The league hates the Ducks just as much as the next guy.

  15. Ouch! That looked really bad, hope Seabrook is ok.

    And yes, there should definitely be a suspension.

    Call it what you want.. boarding, charging, interference, headshot, pre-miditated, all fits in on this hit.

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