Gryba gets two games, Montreal responds

Eric Gryba

Eric Gryba receives a two-game suspension for Eller hit. // Photo by Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

At 3:21 p.m. today TSN’s Bob McKenzie reported that Ottawa Senators’ defenseman Eric Gryba received a two-game suspension for his hit on Montreal’s Lars Eller.

Eller was taken off the ice on a stretcher after taking a hit from the big defender while in a vulnerable position.

But was the suspension warranted?

The NHL’s Department of Player Safety had to make a quick decision seeing as the two teams were back at it tonight in Montreal for game two.

Gryba was called for a five-minute interference major, given a game misconduct on the play. Meanwhile, Eller lay motionless in a pool of blood at the Montreal blue line.

Watching the game from home, as a fan, we were shown replay after replay from five to ten different camera angles. Some looked worse than others but at the end of the day, one thing was certain. It was in no way an interference penalty. Eller did play the puck prior to taking the hit.

It wasn’t charging. It wasn’t high sticking or elbowing. And under the NHL’s Rule 48 it wasn’t a head shot directly. Gryba’s hip and body hit that of Eller prior to any contact to the head.

The hit itself was on a player who was in a vulnerable position there is no question about that. But he was in that position, in large part, because of a suicide pass by Montreal’s Rafael Diaz – which Ottawa coach Paul MacLean commented on in his post-game press conference.

MacLean’s comments, however, got a lot of feedback from Montreal coach Michel Therrien and enforcer Brandon Prust.

Prust responded (somewhat childishly) by saying that he doesn’t care what “that bug-eyed, fat walrus has to say.”

Therrien responded in his morning presser by saying it was an inappropriate comment.

“No respect for the player on the ice who was bleeding. No respect for his family in the stands. When he compared that to a hockey hit, the comparison he made was with the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s. This is why we’ve got new rules, to avoid those hits when a player is vulnerable. That’s why we’ve got new rules.”

The call on the ice is understandable – the referee can’t be blamed for making that call especially with the result that lay in front of him on the ice.

However, the two game suspension brings to question (again) what the rules are in the NHL regarding contact. What is acceptable? What isn’t acceptable? In a contact sport like hockey, you can’t have grey areas in relation to the rules. The rules have to be black and white.

Both Lars Eller and Eric Gryba are victims to the inconsistencies of the NHL’s governing body.

So while Gryba will sit for two games, Eller will sit out the rest of the playoffs and try to recover from the devastating hit.

And the rest of the NHL is left with more question – how to properly protect players without changing the outlook of the sport because without contact there will be a large drop in interest.

Notes:

  • Eller suffered a concussion, and dental and facial injuries
  • Montreal will also be without captain Brian Gionta and top scorer Max Pacioretty for Game 2 of their first-round series with Ottawa due to undisclosed injuries.
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