Earlier today, the National Hockey League Department of Player Safety held a hearing for the incident where Kurtis Gabriel hit Nolan Patrick from behind in the first period in last night’s 3-6 loss suffered by the New Jersey Devils. The decision was announced this afternoon: Gabriel is suspended for one game for that incident.
I think this is a fair call. Gabriel went straight for Patrick’s back and drilled him into the boards. It was a predatory and reckless hit. In the game, the refs thought something similar as Gabriel was given a major penalty for boarding. I can appreciate that the NHL DoPS did not leave it at that and meted out additional punishment. Here is the official video from the NHL that both shows the incident and explains the decision.
My only issue is with the lack of a similar hearing for Patrick. Later in that game, Patrick tagged Gabriel right in the head with a not-at-all subtle hit. It was behind the play. It was definitely revenge for what Gabriel did to Patrick. It was not called at all. Gabriel got up, skated down to the other end of the rink, threw a check on Scott Laughton, tried to fight Laughton, was penalized for it, and then was asked to leave to enter the concussion protocol. There was no misconduct penalty assessed to Gabriel. Laughton did not hit Gabriel in the head. He was only hit in the head by Patrick on that hit. While the refs did not call anything for that, they did notice something to cause them to send Gabriel to the back. So they knew something was up - but they did not conclude why something may have been up.
I would have figured the Department of Player Safety would at least want to look at it. Maybe they did and I missed it. However, there was no ruling or announcement for it. There was no explanation given for any punishment or a lack thereof for Patrick. That is all I really wanted; just to have the NHL DoPS take a look at it. I am disappointed at the lack of call on Patrick after the game as I was for the non-call during the game. Just as Gabriel’s hit deserved punishment, so do blindside hits to the head for revenge.
Still, I do like that the NHL DoPS did not just conclude that a major penalty was enough punishment for Gabriel. I do not like it when players like Tom Wilson or Brad Marchand throw those kinds of hits and effectively get away with it. Therefore, I cannot like it when it is by one of “my guys.” Hits from behind are dangerous and what Gabriel threw on Patrick was indefensible. I am a little saddened that Patrick got away with his own dangerous hit, but I suppose expecting perfect consistency out of a NHL DoPS that has a reputation for spinning a “Wheel of Discipline” is expecting too much so far. As for Patrick himself, well, he did prove that he fits the Flyers’ reputation of going over the line at times (e.g. Radko Gudas). Nico Hischier doesn’t do that nonsense - and he doesn’t need to.
In any case, what is your reaction to this news? Are you fine with Gabriel being suspended for a game? Should it have been more? Should there have been none since he was given a major penalty in the game? Why do you think they were silent on Patrick blindsing Gabriel? Please leave your answers and other thoughts on this news in the comments. Thank you for reading.