Was Boston Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy’s unsuccessful appeal on his recent four-game suspension another sign that the NHL Department of Player Safety will be coming down harder on headshots?
Charlie McAvoy was suspended for four games on Halloween for his headshot on Florida Panthers defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson in the third period of a 3-2 overtime win for the Bruins on Oct. 30.
Charlie McAvoy has been given a 5-minute match penalty for this hit on Oliver Ekman-Larsson. pic.twitter.com/el8lOEY8M3
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) October 31, 2023
McAvoy appealed the suspension, and he, along with his agent Michael Curran, and Boston Bruins general manager Don Sweeney participated in an appeal hearing with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly, NHL Department of Player Safety senior Vice President George Parros, and members of the NHL’s legal counsel. Bettman ultimately upheld the suspension and McAvoy served the final game of it on Thursday and the Bruins’ 5-2 win over the New York Islanders.
McAvoy gave further insight into why he appealed and why Bettman denied the appeal on Thursday.
“What we were hoping for was just to get it reduced. I understand the need for discipline there and take responsibility for my actions. I know I made a mistake on the play,” said McAvoy. “But really the way that we understood it, and sort of the way it was explained to us by (head of Player Safety) George (Parros) and Player Safety was that a Rule 48 suspension – a head contact – starts at two games and then you have two factors after that, and that’s injury and history. So there was no injury on the play, and I have a history, so two plus one is three; it’s not four. But there’s not really anything I can do about it.
I thought I had a good chance. I appreciated Mr. Bettman and his team taking the time. They seemed very receptive to what we had in our arguments, which I felt really good about. I felt we made some really good points. I think there were times we were really coming across with what we had, and made a lot of sense.”
What McAvoy explained and opined next seems like a clear indication that the league and the NDPS are adjusting the baseline number of games for headshot suspensions.
“We brought comparables to the table that were the exact same thing and guys that have history,” McAvoy explained. “There were even ones that had injuries on the play that were Rule 48, that had three games and not four. It seemed like a new standard to us that they were trying to get across.”
Given the fact that Calgary Flames defenseman Rasmus Andersson was also given a four-game suspension for his headshot on Columbus Blue Jackets forward Patrik Laine the week before, McAvoy is likely onto something. Neither the NHL nor NDPS has made any public statement that they are adjusting the minimum amount of games for headshots yet, but this is worth watching as the season goes on.