After one of the most exciting playoff victories in Bruins history, the city of Boston deserves a day of celebration. Yet, the NHL is providing at least one bit of bad news, and it comes in the form of a disciplinary hearing for defenseman Andrew Ference.
The hearing is to determine if Ference deserves a suspension for “hitting” Jeff Halpern, and the hearing is completely unnecessary.
The hit in question came midway through the third period in a 2-2 game. Halpern, who had been hit from behind and into the stanchion by Johnny Boychuk earlier in the game, was skating deep into the Bruins’ end as Lars Eller skated the puck toward the blue line. Halpern either didn’t see Ference standing still or thought it wise to try to skate directly through him. Whatever the case, Ference stood his ground, braced for contact and allowed Halpern’s head to smash against his shoulder.
The only thing you could say about Ference is that he did nothing to avoid contact and he “stuck” his shoulder out — as much as you can stick a shoulder out, really, which is about an inch or two. What was his alternative? Lean away and get barreled over?
Yet, after the game, TSN’s Bob McKenzie tweeted that he didn’t like the hit but isn’t sure if a suspension will be given to Ference.
“Would imagine Ference’s defense will be he never saw Halpern,” McKenzie wrote. “Hearing doesn’t guarantee suspension but league obviously didn’t like it.”
McKenzie also noted that the collision was “interesting,” given that Ference was critical of teammate Daniel Paille for his hit on Raymond Sawada earlier in the year, but comparing Ference’s “hit” to Paille’s is like comparing apples to clothes hangers. Ference was standing still as a man skated full speed into his shoulder; Paille came across the high slot and elbowed someone in the head from that player’s blind side. Same thing, right?
If there were any comparison to Ference’s “hit,” it would be the one that got Joe Thornton suspended for two games earlier this season. On that play, Thornton was hurt by his own height, as the shoulder of the 6-foot-4 forward was at the height of David Perron‘s face. Even still, Thornton was skating toward Perron and initiated contact, something that Ference is not guilty of.
The “hit” has also drawn comparison’s to the one that essentially ended Sidney Crosby‘s season. Even that, though, doesn’t work, as Crosby was the one not looking as David Steckel skated by and clipped Crosby’s face with his shoulder. Steckel certainly saw Crosby curling back toward the puck, looking away, and Steckel was to blame for the contact that took place — yet Steckel wasn’t suspended.
Adding to Ference’s defense are the two facts that no penalty was called on the play and no injury was sustained on the play. Halpern needed a few minutes to gather himself, but he returned to the ice less than 10 minutes later and finished the game with more than 20 minutes of ice time. If anything, Halpern might have been a bit dazed from the Boychuk hit, as he certainly seemed to simply overlook the presence of Ference. That doesn’t mean Ference needs to be penalized.
We’ll find out Thursday if Ference will be sitting out a game or two in the Bruins’ upcoming series with the Flyers. Maybe the league detests any contact to the head, no matter who’s responsible for initiating that contact, or maybe the NHL will use this as an opportunity to punish Ference for that “unintentional bird” he set free in Montreal last week. Either way, it’s a hearing that doesn’t need to happen.
Update: The NHL has ruled to not suspend Ference.
Is the NHL warranted in holding a hearing for Andrew Ference? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.