In a strange and rare act of consistency, the NHL Department of Player Safety issued a one game suspension to Dalton Prout for his sucker punch on Nikita Kucherov.
Prout, of Columbus, got the same one game suspension Milan Lucic of the Los Angeles Kings got for his revenge sucker punch to the head of Arizona’s Kevin Connaughton in late January.
Boston’s Brad Marchand threw a sucker punch earlier this year to Gabriel Landeskog, also in revenge, and he only got a $5,000.00 fine. Landeskog got 2 games for his blindside hit to Marchand that drew the eventual punch. Click the video to see both.
So let’s rewind here. It was in November that Marchand got hit, chased Landeskog around the ice, and then eventually sucker punched him. A $5,000.00 fine, officially for “roughing”, was felt enough of a deterrent.
In January, Milan Lucic took a slash from Connaughton in front of the net. He no doubt felt $5,000.00 would be worth it for a good solid punch to the head. He was probably right, because the slash from Connaughton was greasy. His thought process was probably further helped by the $5,000.00 fine issued to Vancouver’s Brandon Prust for his out of nowhere spear to the groin of Marchand in December where he publicly and loudly proclaimed it “the best $5,000.00 he ever spent.” Lucic did end up getting one game for his punch, but what’s one game for that kind of gratification off a solid, direct blow to someone’s temple?
So a fine in November, a fine in December, and a one gamer in January. With that standard, by March, why wouldn’t anyone sucker punch a vulnerable player in a scrum, especially one as valuable as Kucherov is to the Tampa Bay Lightning?
The most famous “sucker punch” of the season took place in February, when Flyer Wayne Simmonds took a match penalty for concussing Ranger Ryan McDonagh. McDonagh had cross checked Simmonds to the head just prior to the incident(no suspension for that). There was no supplementary discipline for Simmonds either(which I actually wholeheartedly agree with, as explained in Simmonds gets ejected, McDonagh gets away with one). The only reason I bring it up is to show that for every single month of the season there’s been at least one major, high profile punching incident.
This type of play has been proven by the Department of Player Safety to be an acceptable part of the game.