Well, the spear below the belt is officially an international phenomenon this postseason. It's been the retaliation of choice in the Stanley Cup Playoffs this year and now it looks to be the same over at the World Championship currently being played in Minsk, Belarus.
Buffalo Sabres forward Zemgus Girgensons is at the Worlds representing Latvia and is easily one of the most talented players on the team. While trailing Russia 4-1 midway through the second period of their preliminary-round matchup Saturday, Girgensons speared Alexander Burmistrov right in the groin after a faceoff. Unlike some of the ones in the NHL this year, he wasn't as subtle.
Girgensons received a five-minute major and game misconduct for spearing and on Sunday, the International Ice Hockey Federation suspended him an additional game. He'll miss Latvia's Monday contest against host Belarus.
Here's what the IIHF had to say on the matter:
Upon reviewing the play the Disciplinary Panel determined that Girgensons' violation of rule 538 b) (Spearing), and was a careless, dangerous and a flagrant violation. The Panel agrees that Girgensons is responsible to control his emotions and actions that often lead to these dangerous situations.
Maybe the NHL could learn a thing or two about how to discipline cup-checks (though I would say Girgensons was particularly vicious compared to some of the ones we've seen this year, but they're all bad, really).
The spear came just two days after Latvia upset the United States 6-5 to move into position to actually make the quarterfinals. A win over Belarus Monday probably gets them in, but now they'll be without one of the budding stars of their national team.
Girgensons has had a bit of a frustrating World Championship, though, with just one goal in the tournament. Even so, he logs major minutes and is a factor at both ends of the ice.
I'm guessing his head coach with the Sabres isn't too happy about this one because he's also his coach with Latvia. Ted Nolan is likely making his last appearance behind the bench for Latvia's national team at this tournament. After a surprise showing at the Olympics, a trip to the quarterfinals at the Worlds would be a great bonus. It'll be a bit tougher to make it without the former Sabres first-round pick.