Was McDavid Injured on Purpose?

Hockey players talk a lot of trash over the course of a game, most of which should never be repeated to the outside world. Is the majority of their language and rhetoric acceptable in normal life? No, but they get a pass, because “it’s part of hockey” and “what happens on the ice stays on the ice”. You have to wonder how much truth is expressed, or how much is just a desire to get another guy off their game. Last night’s match-up between the Oilers and Flyers provided us with just such an example.

McDavid Defended Manning

Connor McDavid (97), Milan Lucic (27) and Leon Draisaitl (29) (Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports)
Connor McDavid (97), Milan Lucic (27) and Leon Draisaitl (29) (Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports)

Connor McDavid didn’t win the Calder Trophy last season and likely missed out on a lot more because of a fractured clavicle that cost him two months of action. The play on which he was injured was hotly contested because many believed there was some intent behind it. Attempting to read a players mind is always a dangerous proposition because no one except the player himself knows his true intentions. The crash into the boards was largely a result of McDavid’s superior speed and subsequent momentum.

It all happened so fast, and many people ended up accepting the fact that it was just a fluke play with a very unfortunate result. Brandon Manning, one of the main perpetrators on the play had this to say after it happened:

‘It was just a hustling power play, they came back at us on a 2-on-2 and he kind of just stepped on the outside, I turned and [Del Zotto] came across and just between the two of us, I think he went into the boards awkwardly,’ Manning told CSN Philadelphia. ‘He wasn’t able to protect himself. Just by looking at him there, I’m sure it’s his shoulder or his collarbone.’ [NHL]

Although McDavid’s teammates were upset at the situation, it didn’t appear that they blamed Manning or felt he intentionally tried to injure McDavid. Even Connor himself held no grudges (at least publically) because he never called out Manning or threw him under the bus. “I don’t really think it was a hit or anything like that,” McDavid said. “It was just an unlucky play. I don’t really want to get into it too much, but for him to get death threats or anything. I don’t really know what that was about.” But, McDavid didn’t forget what happened, and in their first meeting since the injury, McDavid and Manning predictably crossed paths.

Brandon Manning, Philadelphia Flyers, Fantasy Hockey
(Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Manning Defended Himself

After McDavid scored a goal against the Flyers, he didn’t celebrate, instead, he expressed some colourful language in the direction of a Flyers player. Video revealed that player was Manning. After the game, McDavid was asked about the confrontation, and had this to say:

‘You know what, I did all I could defending him last year in the media,’ McDavid said. ‘Everyone wanted to make a big deal saying he did it on purpose. And he wanted to say some comments today about what went on last year and I thought it was one of the most classless things I’ve ever seen on the ice. He said some things and our guys responded accordingly. And I guess we can put the whole if he did it on purpose thing to rest because what he said out there kinda confirmed that. Shows what kind of guy he is when he doesn’t step up and fight some of our guys.’ [Sportsnet]

Connor McDavid is usually the kind of guy who tows the company line and doesn’t say anything that could be interpreted as controversial. He normally gives cliched answers. But following the game he was clearly upset. Manning had the chance to respond, and of course took the innocent route:

‘I think anybody who knows me or who has played with or against me along the road here, knows that I am not that kind of player,’ Manning said. ‘I am not out there intentionally trying to hurt people. I’m a guy who plays the game hard and I take pride in that. I think going back to last year, it was a total accident, I mean, there were three players involved and there was never any intention on hurting anyone.’ [Sportsnet]

The Oilers had a 2-0 lead in that game. They had another lead later on. They eventually lost the game. Is it possible that Manning was doing an effective job of throwing McDavid and his teammates off? Was he getting in his head? If that was the game plan, it worked. Although McDavid got a goal and an assist, the Oilers as a whole didn’t play well and coughed up the game in typical Oilers fashion. Connor McDavid wouldn’t lie about what Manning said. However there’s certainly a good chance that Manning’s words were on purpose, though the original hit itself was not.