You won’t see many leagues that hold harsher punishments for spitting than deliberate hits to the head, but it appears the NHL is the exception.
According to Greg Wyshynski of ESPN, the NHL will not have a hearing regarding further discipline for Ottawa Senators forward, Austin Watson after he was ejected in Thursday night’s game for a high hit to Rangers forward Tyler Motte’s face.
Wyshynski later reported on Twitter saying the NHL “determined the play wasn’t charging and criteria didn’t rise to Illegal Check to the Head. North/south hit through the body with unavoidable head contact.”
New York is currently off Friday afternoon before their trip to Boston but did lose Motte for the remainder of the game after Watson appeared to deliberately charge and hit the forward in the face during the first period of the Rangers’ 5-3 loss to Ottawa Thursday night.
Watson does have a prior suspension-worthy history before the incident with Motte on Thursday. As a part of the Nashville Predators, Watson was suspended for the first 18 games of the season for “non-hockey reasons.” He was also suspended for a total of four games through four seasons for illegal hits.
The NHL Player Safety Twitter account has not commented on the decision but has received controversy for its silence.
The Rangers lost defenseman K’Andre Miller for three games this week due to a spitting incident against the Los Angeles Kings last weekend. While there has been prior precedent to Miller’s spitting suspension, the lack of a hearing for a hit on a defenseless player on the ice has drawn serious concern for player safety.
There have also been prior concerns with the Rangers and the NHL in terms of roster building as well. The league denied New York a chance to call up a minor league player to satisfy the minimum requirements for teams on Thursday afternoon.
Motte’s current injury from Watson’s hit will also further complicate the Rangers’ difficult roster build. As an emergency contest, the Blueshirts won’t be able to call up another player until their following game against the Montreal Canadiens.
New York is dealing with a plethora of injuries both offensively and defensively. But it’s the most recent injury, and the lack of accountability for it, that is causing the NHL a solid deal of controversy.
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