After delivering an illegal hit to the head of the Chicago Blackhawks' Ben Smith during an exhibition game Wednesday night, the Detroit Red Wings' Brendan Smith was suspended for the remainder of the preseason and five regular season games.
NHL Senior Vice President of Player Safety Brendan Shanahan said Friday that Brendan Smith "recklessly" targeted Ben Smith's head and therefore drew the suspension. It will also cost the Wings defenseman $23,648 in salary as he will forfeit that while sitting out. If Smith begins the season in the American Hockey League, the suspension will kick in when or if he is recalled.
"You knew it was going to be up there," Hawks forward Patrick Kane said of the length of the suspension. "I think we thought 10-plus (games). I guess they're pretty serious about what they're issuing these days. It seems like Ben (Smith) is doing better so hopefully he won't even be out that long. That's one thing you don't want to see, is the guy who gets hit is out longer than the guy who gets suspended."
In Detroit, Brendan Smith told reporters: “Obviously, we’re trying to cut down on the head hits. I thought it was a little steep with the five regular-season games. I was trying to get a spot here, so I don’t have that many games to show that, but like I said, I thought it was a little steep. But you never want to see anyone get hurt. I had the meeting with Shanny and he decided that I would go with the rest of the preseason and five regular-season games. We had our meeting with Kenny Holland and myself on one line and we were talking to them.
“It’s a high-risk play when someone tries to cut to the middle," Smith continued. "It’s not an illegal play on him, and actually, he made a great move. I was actually trying to catch him, because he kind of had a step. It’s a very fast play with both of us going full-speed. It’s a tough play, but obviously, I was never targeting his head. I feel terrible about the outcome of what happened. And I actually got in touch with (Ben Smith) and just apologized and said ‘In no intentions did I try to do that.’ I was juts trying to out-play that man, and try to make sure that he didn’t get to the net, and not let him score. Obviously, some things can go wrong. And that was the worst possible thing that could happen. I’m going to have to learn from this, for sure."
Brendan Smith's coach, Mike Babcock, also addressed the suspension with reporters.
"I thought it was a little extreme to tell you the truth," Babcock said. 'I still believe when you're a left-handed guy, chasing the guy and you put your stick down on the puck, so stick-on-stick, body-on-body, and the guy pulls back he's got some responsibility in this area as well.
"In saying that, we're not condoning anyone getting hit in the head with someone's shoulder or any of that. It's important, they're a work in progress as the league too(is) trying to figure this all out and how to protect the players. He's going to learn from this and move on."
In his explanation for the suspension, Shanahan said, "Although Ben Smith slightly changed shis path, the positioning of his head does not significantly change. So the onus remains on Detroit's Brendan Smith to delvier a full body check. Insteads, Brendan Smith misses and reckelessly targets his oppoents head. This is a violation of the illegal check to the head rule.
"It is always very important to note that Ben Smith was seriously injured on this play. and Brendan Smith was assessed a match penalty."
Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said of the suspension: "It's kind of in line with the way things have been going here. In the past it wouldn't have been as severe but this is kind of a new area they're looking at."
Quenneville said Ben Smith's condition "is about the same" a day after he said the rookie was "okay."
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