RALEIGH, N.C. – Carolina Hurricanes forward Kevin Westgarth was suspended for two games as the result of boarding Ottawa Senators defenseman Mark Borowiecki when the two teams played at PNC Arena last Sunday.
The National Hockey League’s (NHL) Department of Player Safety announced on Tuesday that Westgarth’s suspension would require him to sit out two games without pay ($7,435.90) for the incident that occurred at 7:55 of the first period of Carolina’s 4-1 victory against the Senators.
Borowiecki was injured on the play and did not return to the game while Westgarth was penalized two minutes for boarding during the game.
When reviewed on video, the hit was an unfortunate and undeniably ill-timed hit on Westgarth’s part in trying to make an aggressive hockey play for the puck.
The Ottawa defenseman had his back turned and was still on his knees attempting to get up when the Hurricanes forward pushed him with his leg and hip, causing him to fall head-first into the boards.
Watch: via NHL.com
It was not the right circumstance for making a hit, nor the right person to send a message to on the Senators squad – if that was the intent at all.
The night before the Senators traveled to Raleigh, they played the Detroit Red Wings, a game in which Sens defenseman Jared Cowen swiped an elbow towards Wings forward Pavel Datsyuk’s face after he passed the puck away during the latter portion of the game.
For Cowen, no subsequent discipline from the NHL was incurred while Datsyuk has sat out since that game, but was improving from concussion-like symptoms according to the Detroit Free Press as of Monday.
For Hurricanes fans, Cowen was a known entity for questionable physical hits when thinking back to when the two teams met previous to their most recent game in Raleigh.
Back on Apr. 16, 2013 when the Hurricanes visited Scotiabank Place, it was Cowen who delivered an open-ice hit, arm/elbow-to-head, on Jeff Skinner just over three minutes into the game that kept the Carolina forward from returning to play in the rest of it.
Watch: via NHL.com
Cowen took on his fair share of retribution for the hit back then as former Hurricanes forward Chad LaRose immediately took him to task for it, and Westgarth did so later on in the game as well.
Watch: via YouTube – HockeyFights.com
However, Cowen did not receive a penalty on the play after hitting Skinner, or any supplemental discipline from the NHL for it either.
Now with two almost-but-should-have-been punished incidents where two of the league’s more identifiable players were injured during a game, the young Ottawa defenseman continues to skate on for his team.
This brings up an interesting point when looking back on the follow-up to Westgarth’s hit on Borowiecki during the game.
There was none.
Cowen didn’t bother to tussle with Westgarth at any point.
Oh, it was evident that Cowen and Westgarth eyed each other throughout the game, and some may have expected something to happen, but it didn’t.
The previous night’s incident against Detroit probably kept the Senators from setting a date with the Department of Player Safety as they avoided jumping headlong into a successive night of physical incidents and altercations any further.
Instead, it was Westgarth who deflected the attention away from them.
He got suspended and will make his contribution to the Players’ Emergency Assistance fund for hurting one of Ottawa’s players on a bad play with a bad hit.
Guilty as charged.
However, a bigger message was sent to Cowen and the Senators about how things work in the NHL.
You hurt our guy a while back – we hurt your guy now.
Was that the intent?
No, but it just happened.
Sorry, that’s the game.
Although it’s a number of separate events that occurred over an extended period of time that weave this logic together, the intent is to illustrate the NHL’s imperfect form of justice at work.
As the league hasn’t or won’t suspend a player like Cowen who plays recklessly while injuring other teams’ marquee players, it will unfortunately be innocents like Borowiecki who pay the bigger price for him and his team.
Regardless of the fact that the lack of supplemental discipline and the written record won’t show enforcement of improper conduct, the memories etched in players’ minds and their resultant actions to correct it always will.
Like it or not, it’s the way it is and always has been in pro hockey.