There were different means of getting the point across. Speaking at a podium after the team’s morning skate and media availability, Doughty began his argument stating his relief that Carrier was uninjured on the play. “There are obviously a lot of things I want to say here, but first off, I hope Carrier’s OK,” he began. “I see he’s in the lineup, he’s not injured, so he’s OK, and I never intended to hit him in the head.” He also gave an account of a conversation with Carrier in the immediate aftermath of the hit that the Golden Knight did not have a pointed objection to the hit. “Carrier on the bench, talking to me and saying, ‘you hit me in the shoulder, it’s a good hit, it’s a good hit,’ so he had no problems with it, but I’m suspended,” Doughty said.
He then continued with an impassioned articulation of the hit he made, and called into attention several hits from other players around the league last night – including those from Toronto’s Nazem Kadri, who will have a hearing with the Department of Player Safety, Columbus’ Josh Anderson and Nashville’s Ryan Johansen – all of which have drawn and will continue to draw consideration and scrutiny from the DoPS, teams and fans.
“As far as the suspension goes, I don’t think for one second that that is suspension-worthy,” Doughty said. “On the hearing and whatnot, we came to the conclusion that I did not intend to hit the head. I did get his shoulder, and the thing we kind of didn’t agree on was that he didn’t move or alter position to make him vulnerable for the hit, which you can clearly see in the video that he plants on his right leg, going off his left, opens up his left shoulder and tries to jump to the inside, and that’s why he ends up in the middle of the ice. I don’t think it’s suspension-worthy. I think it’s B.S., really. It’s awful, and watching the games last night, I guess he’s got four or five more [suspensions] to give.”
Stevens’ reactions to the hit began with a touch of humor towards a situation that resulted in widespread league attention and a variety of cameras, microphones and recorders in close proximity before launching into an fervent defense of his player.
“I wasn’t sure I’d get that question, but I’m going to address this and move on,” Stevens said. “In my opinion Drew Doughty is the best player at his position in the world, and he defended that play exactly the way we’d expect him to defend that play, and the other thing I’ll say to that is that as long as I’m on the earth, I’m going to agree to disagree with that decision.”
He approached the inevitable question about how the team would soldier on in Doughty’s absence with a mix of dry cynicism and focus on the game at hand.
“I think Nick asked that question yesterday and we hadn’t thought about it because we weren’t expecting to be without him,” he said. “We grabbed the staff yesterday and got together after the announcement and what we decided to is when the game starts tonight, we’re going to put two D on the ice. We get a power play or a penalty kill, we’re going to put two D on the ice. We checked with the league and we’re pretty sure that they’re going to keep the puck the same size. Vegas is only going to be allowed to put five guys on the ice, unless they pull their goalie – they can put a sixth attacker on the ice. So, I think we’re good to go. [Rerpoter: So no four forwards on the power play?] That’s an option, but we feel pretty good about the guys coming in that they can give us some valuable minutes in those situations like they have all year.”
Blake, who previously worked under Brendan Shanahan in the Department of Player Safety before both departed for positions with NHL clubs, also spoke about the conversation the team had with the league, and (as shared below) the DoPS’ process of reviewing questionable hits and how the league communicates with teams in their aftermath.
As part of the team’s argument, Blake felt that the head was not the primary point of contact and that the hit was unavoidable based on Carrier’s late evasion on the play.
“Our argument was that [the head] wasn’t the main point of contact. We felt Drew delivered a hit where the head contact was unavoidable,” Blake said. “We felt the player opened up a bit right at the last second. Those were our arguments, and that’s what the hearings are for. Both sides expressed it. Drew expressed what he felt on the play. I had some comments and some of the things that I saw on the play, and then they deliberate and they come back with their verdict or their determination after that.”
“They didn’t ask a lot of questions to Drew. Just had him explain it. I thought Drew did a really good job explaining it. They know the proper angles and they know the proper routes and they know how to do these hits. We’ll stick by our player there.”
Rob Blake, on the communication between the NHL and teams in the aftermath of questionable hits:
I think they obviously talk probably after the game. Their videos are sent out to their department. They’ll reach out to us probably about a half-hour after the game requesting a hearing the next day.
Blake, on the context of other questionable hits across the league:
Myself, I don’t really look at the other hits. I’ll keep an eye on different things and I’ll see different rulings or different situations. Look, they’ve got a tough job, and I’ll leave it at that. We’ve got to go out and win a game tonight.
Drew Doughty, on whether it was the same type of hit he’d look to deliver again:
That’s the way we play the game. We play the game, you’ve got to be physical, you don’t want me to just let that guy get to the net and get a scoring chance. I’m not going to let him do that. Like I said, I did not at all intend to hit him in the head, and I 100% got shoulder first and definitely hit the head after that. Maybe a penalty call or something like that, but a suspension and in the playoffs, I don’t think so. Like I said, I saw four hits last night that deserved more games than that, so we’ll see what he does now.
Doughty, on whether it’s confusing when the suspension comes on a hit that wasn’t penalized:
That’s not confusing. It’s tough for the refs to see all the calls. Sometimes it’s hard to see stuff. They saw it as a hockey play. They knew I didn’t intend to hit him in the head, and it was hard to even tell that it hit him in the head. Also, too, another thing, Carrier on the bench, talking to me and saying, ‘you hit me in the shoulder, it’s a good hit, it’s a good hit,’ so he had no problems with it, but I’m suspended. [Reporter: It looked like he took a couple runs at you early in the game. Did you feel you needed to kind of send a message the other way?] No, not at all. They were all running at me. I probably got put on my ass four or five times that game. That’s just part of the game, and I expect that. I’ve been in tons of playoff series where the other teams are doing that to me, and that’s just their game plan before the game. Like I said, no, not at all, I did not intend to injure him. Did I intend to separate him from the puck and hit him? Yeah, for sure, but that’s my job. I’m a defenseman, and that’s what you’ve got to do, and I feel terrible that I hit him in the head, and if he is having any problems, I feel awful about that, but I would do it all over again. I would make that hit and try to separate him from the puck.
Doughty, on not having missed a game in over four years:
It sucks. I just can’t stop thinking about it. It was even weird to be out there, but I’m just going to try to stay positive and help lead the boys and try to keep things pretty similar as if I were playing, to just make things seem normal. But it’s tough, and it sucks not playing, and I have no history in doing that type of stuff, too, which is another reason I’m frustrated I got suspended. This whole situation sucks, but we’ve got a big game tonight, and the boys are going to play their butts off, and we need a win.
Doughty, on whether there’s anything he’d tell his teammates tonight:
No, nothing to tell them. Just go out there and play. Have fun. We have so many great defensemen in this system. Guys that on other teams would be in the lineup. It just happens that we’re so deep at the defense position. So, we’ve got some guys that are young and they have a good opportunity. We have three of our top four D out of the lineup, and they have a great opportunity, and they’re going to play awesome for us tonight.
Doughty: “There are obviously a lot of things I want to say here, but first off, I hope Carrier’s OK. I see he’s in the lineup, he’s not injured, so he’s OK, and I never intended to hit him in the head. As far as the suspension goes, I don’t think for one second that that is suspension-worthy. On the hearing and whatnot, we came to the conclusion that I did not intend to hit the head. I did get his shoulder, and the thing we kind of didn’t agree on was that he didn’t move or alter position to make him vulnerable for the hit, which you can clearly see in the video that he plants on his right leg, going off his left, opens up his left shoulder and tries to jump to the inside, and that’s why he ends up in the middle of the ice. I don’t think it’s suspension-worthy. I think it’s B.S., really. It’s awful, and watching the games last night, I guess he’s got four or five more [suspensions] to give.”
-Lead photo via Jeff Bottari/NHLI