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Gabriel Landeskog suspension proves NHL double standard

NHL: Colorado Avalanche at Florida Panthers
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Early on in the season, Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog got suspended for two games following his hit on Chicago Blackhawks center Kirby Dach.

Here’s the hit:

Sure, it was dangerous considering how 20-year old Dach went into the boards. Dach was on awkward footing, yes, and wobbly on his skates. The league called it boarding, and noted that the Avalanche captain’s hit was “dangerous.” Gabriel Landeskog forfeited $70,000 in pay as a result of his actions, with the amount being calculated as a result of his newly-inked contract with the Avs.

There is no problem with the suspension, or the fine, or even the call. It was a board. It was dangerous for Kirby Dach’s head. And the league is really trying to crack down on plays that result in serious brain injury for its players. It wasn’t Landeskog’s first suspension (though he certainly doesn’t have a penchant for suspensions like some other players in the league), and the hit could have been avoided. None of that is up for debate here.

The issue, in fact, did not come up until a short time later, in another Avalanche contest. This time, though, the questionable hit did not come from Gabriel Landeskog or even from a member of his club. This time, the Avalanche were the victim.

Late in the Avalanche’s contest against the back-to-back champs, the Tampa Bay Lightning, Bolts captain Steven Stamkos hit Avalanche defenseman Samuel Girard in a way most spectators had seen before. It was a nearly identical hit to the one Landeskog threw on Kirby Dach.

Girard was slow to get up, but eventually left the ice and did not return. He is not practicing, and certainly not playing. Coach Jared Bednar announced that Girard is not seriously hurt, but is labelled as day-to-day with an injury as a direct result of the hit.

Stamkos was not given a fine, and definitely avoided the two-game suspension handed down to Gabriel Landeskog. Why?

Gabriel Landeskog situation proves NHL double standard

colorado avalanche' gabriel landeskog
Oct 23, 2021; Tampa, Florida, USA; Colorado Avalanche left wing Gabriel Landeskog (92) celebrates after a goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning during a shoot out at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Kirby Dach did not miss a single game as a result of Landeskog’s hit. That fact most certainly does not take away from the dangerous nature of the hit, but rather proves the severity of Stamkos’ hit on Girard, who had just returned from injury to play in the Avalanche matchup against the Bolts. It, clearly, was a dangerous hit to Girard’s head, as evidenced by the fact that he was removed from the game and not cleared to play. In short, Steven Stamkos boarded Samuel Girard, and didn’t get so much as a two minute minor for it.

Fans on Reddit are now noting that Steven Stamkos laid another dangerous hit on Dylan Cozens of the Buffalo Sabres a few days later. It was a high hit this time, but there was no call yet again. Some point out that there was already a penalty coming against the Lightning, and the referee already had his hand up, but two questionable hits in a short span should certainly necessitate some sort of disciplinary action. At the very least, a fine should come.

It seems inconsistent that Landeskog forfeits $70,000 and misses two games with his club, yet Stamkos gets off scot-free for the same hit. If the league really wants to crack down on head injuries, they need to be consistent with their suspensions, fines and punishments. It’s been a criticism of the league as long as Tom Wilson has been throwing injury-inducing, dangerous hits, and the inconsistency is really not helpful when trying to deter players from bad hits.

In short, if the league was going to suspend Gabriel Landeskog for the hit, they should have suspended Steven Stamkos for it, too.