The NHL’s Department of Player Safety has suspended Philadelphia Flyers’ forward Jakub Voracek two games for interference on New York Islanders’ defender Johnny Boychuk. This is Voracek’s first suspension in his NHL career.
Philadelphia’s Jakub Voracek has been suspended for two games for Interference on NY Islanders’ Johnny Boychuk. https://t.co/9YI9Jhc1oU
— NHL Player Safety (@NHLPlayerSafety) March 10, 2019
This hit caused quite a stir within the hockey world as many believed that Voracek was wrongly assessed a five-minute major on the play. Despite this, the NHL still took a look at the play (as they should have) and ultimately determined that the hit delivered by Voracek was worthy of supplemental discipline.
Whether or not this hit was actually worthy of a suspension or not, the real issue with this is the fact that the NHL’s Department of Player Safety has been widely inconsistent for far too long. It’s easy to be frustrated if you’re a fan, a media member or even a player or member of a team given that nobody knows what is and isn’t legal in today’s game.
With the Flyers still playing for a spot in the postseason, a two-game suspension for one of the Flyers’ best forwards is devastating. In 66 games this season, the 29-year-old winger has scored 18 goals and 61 points.
Below is the NHL’s video explaining the hit and suspension followed by a complete transcript.
Transcript of NHL’s Video
Saturday night in New York, Flyers’ forward Jakub Voracek was assessed a major penalty for interference on Islanders’ defenseman Johnny Boychuk.
As the video shows, the puck is chipped into the Flyers’ zone and the Islanders pursue on the forecheck. Flyers’ defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere rims the puck around the net to the opposite side of the ice where Voracek is waiting on the half-wall.
Recognizing the loose puck in the corner, Boychuk pinches down hard from the point as Voracek looks to establish position.
With both players still some distance away from the puck, Voracek sees Boychuk approaching with speed and, ignoring the puck entirely, cuts sharply into Boychuk’s path, driving his upper back into Boychuk’s head, knocking him to the ice.
This is interference.
Players establishing positioning around the boards often initiate body contact with their back to keep their opponent away from the puck and to protect themselves from being hit into the boards. Dependong on the force of the contact and the way in which it is initiated, this type of contact is often permitted or can be sufficiently penalized by the on-ice officials.
What causes this hit to rise to the level of supplemental discipline is the distance between both players re from the puck, the substantial contact with Boychuk’s head and the force of the hit.
When Voracek initiates this hit, he and Boychuk are at the hashmarks while the puck is at the goal line. There is no reason for any player in Boychuk’s position to anticipate contact of any kind, let alone a forceful hit to the head by an opponent’s back.
This is not a case in which Voracek is protecting a puck in his possession from an approaching checker and both players are aware that body contact may occur. This is a case in which Voracek initiates high forceful contact on an unsuspecting player who is not in possession of the puck and is not eligible to be checked in any fashion.
To summarize, this is interference. Voracek has been neither fined nor suspended in his 834 game NHL career. The Department of Player Safety has suspended Jakub Voracek for two games.
Brandon Share-Cohen has covered the NHL and various professional sports for six years. Working with The Hockey Writers, Brandon works extensively on covering the Boston Bruins in addition to his role as the News Team Lead.