Mon, 24 Jan 2022

Leafs F Jason Spezza suspended six games for kneeing

Field Level Media
08 Dec 2021, 12:55 GMT+10

Toronto Maple Leafs forward Jason Spezza received a six-game suspension Tuesday for what the NHL Department of Player Safety deemed a "reckless and retaliatory knee to the head" that injured Winnipeg Jets defenseman Neal Pionk.

Reports Tuesday indicated that Spezza planned to appeal the suspension. He was not in Toronto's lineup Tuesday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The discipline came following an in-person hearing (over Zoom) for Spezza following Sunday's spate of incidents in the Maple Leafs-Jets game. Pionk received a two-game suspension Monday for a knee-to-knee hit on Maple Leafs defenseman Rasmus Sandin during the third period of that game.

Less than two minutes after that hit, Pionk, who had lost his stick, dove to the ice to make a play for the puck. Spezza skated over and lowered his left knee to make forceful contact with the side of Pionk's head.

Jets coach Paul Maurice said earlier Tuesday that Pionk had entered concussion protocol and would miss at least three games as a result.

In an explanation video released by the Department of Player Safety, a league official said that Spezza and the Maple Leafs argued that a knee to the head wasn't considered kneeing, and that Spezza could have made a legal check had Pionk not changed the position of his head. The official said that the league disagreed with those arguments.

The department acknowledged that Spezza has never been suspended nor fined in his 1,203-game NHL career.

"Ultimately, while we believe that Spezza's long history of clean play supports his argument that he does not intentionally drive his knee into the head of Pionk, this is a play in which he is attempting to enact forceful retribution on a player who is in a vulnerable position," the official said.

In his third season with the Leafs, Spezza has tallied seven goals and four assists over 26 games.

--Field Level Media

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