Report: Wild's Charlie Coyle won't be suspended for hit on Matt Stajan

By Brian Stubits |

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Minnesota Wild rookie forward Charlie Coyle will not face supplemental discipline for his hit on the Flames' Matt Stajan on Tuesday night.

A league spokesperson told NBC Sports' Pro Hockey Talk and Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star Tribune that Coyle will not have a hearing despite what appeared to be contact directly with Stajan's head -- and well after the play.

The league reviews all questionable calls, of which this was certainly one, but Department of Player Safety head Brendan Shanahan and his crew didn't see enough for a suspension.

I'll admit my surprise, big time. When I saw the hit I thought it was going to be perhaps one of the easiest suspension calls the league has had to make. The hit was completely unnecessary, well after the play and was high. Under very few people's standards would it be classified as a good hockey hit.

The rule in question here is the oft-cited Rule 48.1. It states:

"A hit resulting in contact with an opponent's head where the head is targeted and the principal point of contact is not permitted. However, in determining whether such a hit should have been permitted, the circumstances of the hit, including whether the opponent put himself in a vulnerable position immediately prior to or simultaneously with the hit or the head contact on an otherwise legal body check was avoidable, can be considered."

Best I can tell Stajan didn't put himself in a vulnerable position, and the check was avoidable. Oh, and again, the contact was high on Stajan.

But as Russo explains, there is perhaps some wiggle room in the explanation that might explain why no hearing is forthcoming.

Some were saying on Twitter last night that the check was a perfect example of Rule 48 – Illegal Check to the Head. But as is explicitly written in Rule 48 (a rule that some hockey writers have trouble grasping despite its adoption two years ago), the head must be BOTH targeted AND the principal point of contact.

According to the video, the principal point of contact in this case appeared to be Coyle's shoulder to Stajan's upper chest. While there is significant contact to Stajan's chin after the fact, Coyle doesn't go out of his way to hit the head and makes a full body check – two criteria the league uses when determining discipline.
While the hit may have been late, that alone is not grounds for suspension.

Coyle wasn't completely off the hook. Russo reports that he did receive a call from Shanahan to talk about the hit, presumably a warning that he was awfully close.

Now was there some embellishment? Absolutely, I won't dispute that. But just because there's embellishment doesn't mean there wasn't a bad hit. How often do you see a player get an embellishment call while drawing a penalty? They aren't mutually exclusive.

Perhaps the league office felt the on-ice major against Coyle was enough considering the embellishment. We'll probably never know. The league does a good job talking about the hits that result in suspensions, but not so much the non-suspenions.

Did Shanahan and Co. make the right call?

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