The NHL has come down hard on Boston Bruins’ forward Brad Marchand, suspending him five-games for an illegal elbow to the head of New Jersey Devils’ forward Marcus Johansson. The play went unpenalized but the damage was long-lasting as Johansson was later diagnosed with a concussion. Notably, Johansson also missed a month of hockey in November due to a concussion.
Below is a transcript from the video that the NHL released detailing the play in question and the reasoning for the suspension:
“Wednesday night in Boston, Bruins’ forward Brad Marchand delivered an elbow to the head of Devils’ forward Marcus Johansson, causing him to leave the game. As the video shows, Marchand wins a puck battle from Johansson and carries the puck into the Devils zone. Wth Johansson backchecking, Marchand takes a shot, which rebounds out in front of the goaltender. Marchand cuts to the front of the net to pursue the rebound which is quickly covered by the goaltender. As he cuts to the front, he sees Johansson coming near him. Marchand lunges towards Johansson, flares his arm and delivers a forceful elbow directly to the head of Johansson.”
“While we acknowledge Marchand’s argument that he is attempting to defend himself from oncoming contact, it is Marchand who initiates contact on this play. This is not a defensive maneuver made for Marchand’s protection. Marchand lunges both up and into Johansson while swinging his elbow forward through Johansson’s head. This is an offensive, not a defensive maneuver, and cannot be excused as accidental or defensive contact.
Marchand’s History Playing a Role
Marchand’s five previous suspensions and three previous fines likely had a lot to do with the severity of this suspension. Marchand certainly deserved some sort of suspension or extra fine for the hit, but five-games could seem a little excessive. At the same time, with a track record like Marchand’s and a hit to the head, it’s good that the NHL is doing their part to try and deter players from taking liberties, especially with the concussions and brain injuries holding such severe consequences for players in the short and long-term.
Marchand has now lost a total of $872,535 dollars over the course of his career due to suspensions and fines.
Despite being one of the best hockey players on the planet, Marchand has had a hard time separating legal and illegal plays from his repertoire. Known as a pest by fans, media and players alike, Marchand’s antics on the ice often toe the line between clever and outrageous. While Bruins’ fans love the intensity he brings each time he steps on the ice, many fans in Boston are growing tired of Marchand’s continued ignorance for the rules.
With such a big role on the Bruins roster, a team that has Stanley Cup aspirations this season, Marchand needs to do a better job at staying on the right side of the rules. A play like this was reckless, and though he was indeed avoiding contact with the goaltender, taking a liberty with an elbow to an opposing players’ head is simply unacceptable and unnecessary.
Something interesting about this situation is the fact that Marchand is still expected to play in the NHL’s All-Star Game despite this suspension. Because the All-Star game doesn’t actually count as a game and as such, he isn’t forced to miss the game despite his five-game ban. It’s a pretty ridiculous rule by the NHL in general as a player who is being suspended probably shouldn’t be participating in an All-Star game, but this was the expected outcome even before Marchand’s suspension was handed down.