The NHL’s Department of Player Safety has suspended Montreal Canadiens’ forward Paul Byron for three games. The 29-year-old forward has never been suspended or fined in his career but did launch upwards into Florida Panthers’ defender MacKenzie Weegar and caused an injury, resulting in supplemental discipline.
Montreal’s Paul Byron has been suspended for three games for charging Florida’s MacKenzie Weegar. https://t.co/WYC4pDQIyN
— NHL Player Safety (@NHLPlayerSafety) January 16, 2019
This is unfortunate for all parties involved as Weegar suffered an injury and Byron has never been a player with any form of malicious intent. Despite this, the NHL has to be consistent with suspensions and this was, unfortunately, a dangerous hit regardless of intent.
Byron released a statement through Twitter accepting the suspension:
I accept and respect the decision made by the Department of Player Safety. I would like to make it clear I had no intention of causing injury or finishing m check through MacKenzie [Weegar’s] head. I think my history and the way I conduct myself on the ice show a lack of intent to injure other players.
Despite the lack of intention, I have to accept responsibility for my hit and realize the result of the hit was to the head and caused injury. I would like to sincerely apologize for my hit and wish MacKenzie all the best and hope he is okay. I’ve [learned] a lesson through this and will make sure any future hits result in a clean and legal fashion.
Byron has scored 10 goals and 18 points in 34 games this season. He’s reached north of 20 goals in each of the last two seasons and could hit that mark once again this season.
Below is a full transcript of the NHL’s video explaining the suspension
Full Transcript of Suspension Video
Tuesday night in Montreal, Canadiens’ forward Paul Byron was penalized for charging Panthers’ defenseman MacKenzie Weegar. As the video shows, while on the power play, Byron makes his way through the neutral zone with speed. As he gets to the blue line, Weegar steps up to defend against a zone entry.
Byron chips the puck past Weegar and the two players pursue the loose puck. Weegar arrives at the puck first and rims it around the net. Byron arrives as the puck is being released and launches up and into a forceful check, making significant contact with Weegar’s head and causing an injury.
This is charging.
It is important to note that this is not a case where a player comes off the ice after contact due to the force of the hit. This is also not a case where a player’s skates come off the ice slightly as part of a natural hitting motion when delivering a full body hit into a larger player.
Byron launches himself excessively upwards, coming off the ice to deliver the hit and in the process, makes significant and forceful head contact. And while we recognize that Weegar is turning as he makes a play on the puck, the onus is on Byron not to elevate excessively and launch into the hit.
Regardless of Weegar’s movement, there is no reason why the shoulder of Byron should be making direct and forceful contact with Weegar’s head.
If Byron wishes to deliver this check, he must stay low and deliver this hit through Weegar’s shoulder or core instead of launching up and elevating into his head.
To summarize: this is charging. Weegar suffered an injury on the play. Byron has been neither fined nor suspended previously in his 397 game NHL career. The Department of Player Safety has suspended Paul Byron for three games.