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David Backes Goes To Box For Three Games But NHL Is One Who Should Feel Shame

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DOPS gon’ DOPS. Another head-scratcher from the NHL here.

Yes, David Backes was late with the hit (he got two minutes for roughing). Despite keeping his shoulder down and making every effort not to, he still managed to incidentally catch Frans Nielson in the head—it was clearly not his intention.

Given the NHL’s inconsistency on doling out punishment, the thought of supplemental discipline didn’t even enter my mind during the game. So late yesterday afternoon when I watched the above video and listened to the audio, hearing “three games” was a bigger twist ending than SE7EN.

Backes has always been a hard-nosed but honest player. He has over 900 NHL games (including playoffs) under his belt and was never in trouble with the league. But he still got whacked. Now I understand the league is trying to eliminate head hits (even if they don’t) and if they wanted to hit him in the wallet or give him a game, I get it. But given the player, his history, reputation, character, and the lack of intent, three games seems excessive.

So how did this hit by Patric Hornqvist not rise to the level of even a fine?

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If one was so inclined, he or she could argue that Charlie McAvoy put himself in a vulnerable position trying to make a play. Fine. But how is what Hornqvist did not as bad as what Backes did? If the standard is “no head shots”, how does one guy get nothing for essentially making the head the principal point of contact and another three games for trying to avoid it? Is lateness in a hit worse than predation?

This isn’t about the Bruins at all. It’s just the same old shit we’ve been complaining about since the dark days of Colin Campbell—the inconsistency. Players have no clue what the standard is or how they’ll be punished or what they can/can’t do. Backes is just the latest example and some other blogger in some other city will be writing his or her version of this soon enough. Because that how this has been going on seemingly forever.

To his credit, Backes was remorseful this morning.

“I think first and foremost the fact that Frans Nielsen is hurt sucks,” Backes told the Herald after the team’s pregame skate for tonight’s clash with the Philadelphia Flyers at TD Garden. I wasn’t intending to hurt him and I hope he has a full recovery and is back on the ice soon. That’s certainly an unintended consequence to the play. The decision is the decision and that is how the process is in the collective bargaining agreement. We had a little hearing on the phone and the decision is the decision and you swallow it.”

(If you didn’t click on the link in the 4th paragraph, here it is. Man, the NHL comes off looking pretty bad here.)