The NHL’s Department of Player Safety has suspended Toronto Maple Leafs’ forward Alexander Kerfoot two games for boarding Colorado Avalanche defender Erik Johnson. Kerfoot was forced to miss some time with a facial injury and had only recently returned to the Maple Leafs lineup prior to this hit.
The 25-year-old Kerfoot spent the first two seasons of his NHL career with the Avalanche and was a former teammate of Johnson. Feeling obvious remorse for the hit, Kerfoot made it clear that he had no malicious intent on the play.
“First and foremost, I think I’m disappointed in myself,” Kerfoot said of the hit “It was obviously a bad play. I know Johnson well and I just hope he’s alright, I hope that he doesn’t miss any time or anything like that. I feel terrible.”
He’d continue by giving his own explanation of what happened on the play.
“He kind of unfortunately lost possession right as I was pushing him and then he stumbles and I pushed him into the boards. It’s no excuse. It was unfortunate timing but it was also a bad play by me and I just hope he’s alright.”
In 22 games this season, Kerfoot has scored five goals and eight points.
This is the second suspension for boarding in as many days that the NHL has handed out.
Below is the NHL’s video explaining the play and the subsequent suspension. Following the video will be a full transcript of the video for those interested.
Transcript of NHL’s Video
Saturday night in Colorado, Maple Leafs’ forward Alexander Kerfoot was penalized for boarding Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson. As the video shows, Johnson skates towards a loose puck behind the Colorado goal-line as Kerfoot pursues on the forecheck.
Johnson arrives at the puck first and attempts to corral it with Kerfoot behind him. As Johnson reaches the puck, Kerfoot delivers a shove to his back, causing a violent crash directly into the boards.
This is boarding.
It is important to note that Kerfoot is entirely in control of this play. From the moment that he hits the hash marks, Kerfoot sees nothing but Johnson’s numbers. This is not a case of a player turning his back immediately prior to contact in a way that turns a legal hit into an illegal one.
Further, while the shove itself is not delivered with exceptional force, it was also not a case where a player puts his hands on the back to guide, direct or engage the puck carrier. It is delivered at an extremely dangerous distance from the boards while both players are traveling with speed.
It is also delivered in a manner that sends Johnson directly into the boards and not at an angle that might minimize the danger of the play.
And while we acknowledge Kerfoot’s observation that Johnson loses his footing slightly as he attempts to turn up ice, it is the shove by Kerfoot that causes Johnson to crash dangerously into the end-boards.
This is a forceful shove to the back of a player who is not in position to adequately protect himself, putting him dangerously and directly into the boards.
To summarize: this is boarding. Kerfoot has been neither fined nor suspended previously in his 179-game NHL career. The Department of Player Safety has suspended Alexander Kerfoot for two games.
Brandon Share-Cohen has covered the NHL and various professional sports for seven years. Working with The Hockey Writers, Brandon works extensively on covering the Boston Bruins in addition to his role as the News Team Lead.