It was another scary scene in the NHL Thursday night as Avalanche forward Cody McLeod checked Niklas Kronwall from behind. The league's player safety department is acting swiftly as it has offered McLeod an in-person hearing, as announced by the NHL. That means McLeod will be suspended until the hearing is held and, per the collective bargaining agreement, his suspension can exceed five games.
McLeod can waive his right to the in-person hearing, but the league still has the right to suspend for five or more games if it so chooses.
McLeod received a five-minute major and game misconduct for boarding on the ice, while Kronwall left the game on a stretcher. According to the Red Wings, Kronwall suffered a concussion and cuts to his right ear after his head slammed into the dasher boards.
According to the NHL, though the ruling on the ice was boarding, the Department of Player Safety can make adjustments to the infraction upon review. For example, if the department felt this was more of a check from behind than boarding, they could rule as such.
McLeod is definitely going to get suspended, but the severity of his punishment is more difficult to predict. There is some (emphasis on some) onus on Kronwall, who's sudden move with his back turned likely compounded the severity of the injury. Even Kronwall said after the game that he was mad at himself for putting himself in that position.
That said, McLeod seemed to commit to the hit while Kronwall's back was already turned. He has the responsibility to minimize contact in that situation. Since he didn't, and Kronwall's body position change made the defenseman even more vulnerable, the end result was near-catastrophic.
It's still a hit from behind and one that shouldn't have happened, at least not with such force. That is why McLeod may have to sweat out the next few days as he awaits what should be fairly significant --but not Patrick Kaleta-significant -- punishment.
It was the second night this week a player left the ice on a stretcher after a hit from behind, as San Jose defenseman Dan Boyle was sent to the hospital in similar fashion by a hit from Blues forward Maxim Lapierre Tuesday.
Should McLeod accept an in-person hearing it will be the third in essentially a week for the Department of Player Safety. Kaleta received a 10-game ban out of his, while Lapierre is scheduled to meet with the league at noon ET Friday.