BOSTON — Officially, Milan Lucic was suspended one game on Monday for his hit from behind on Flyers forward Zac Rinaldo Saturday in Philadelphia.
Unofficially, the punishment was more for Lucic's overall body of questionable work than for that particular hit alone. It was the type of borderline hit that would usually warrant just the punishment dispensed in the ice, when Lucic received a major penalty for checking from behind and a game misconduct.
But Lucic has skirted the line one too many times for the NHL's liking, and this was the offense that finally led to new league vice president of player safety Brendan Shanahan to ban Lucic for a game.
"Obviously I don't think anyone's ever happy when they get suspended," Lucic said before the start of Monday's matchup with Montreal at the Garden. "Brendan Shanahan went with the decision that he felt was the right decision and you've got to respect any decision that they make, whether you agree with it or not. It sucks to sit out a game for an incident like this, especially when we're playing our rivals tonight — Montreal."
Lucic said his history didn't come up during his phone hearing with Shanahan on Monday morning, but it clearly weighed heavily in Shanahan's decision.
"It wasn't discussed in the hearing," Lucic said. "I didn't watch the video, so I don't how much it played into his decision. As far as my history is concerned, I think you look at the five years that I've been here, I've led the team in hits for all those years, and this is the first time that I've ever had a hearing or a suspension, when it comes down to a hit. Take aside the hit on the goalie, I'm talking about the players. I do everything in my power to keep it clean out there."
That hit on the goalie was Lucic's controversial check on Buffalo's Ryan Miller last month. That drew a call from Shahan but no supplemental discipline. Lucic was also only fined for a match penalty last December for punching Atlanta's Freddy Meyer, and he was suspended one game in the 2009 playoffs for hit to the face of Montreal's Maxim Lapierre.
Shanahan may not have discussed that history with Lucic, but in his video explaining his ruling, he made it clear that those previous incidents factored heavily into the decision to suspend Lucic this time around.
"While this hit is not egregious, it is illegal," Shanahan said in the video. "However, the overriding factor in elevating this check from behind from a penalty on the ice to a suspension is his history of similar infractions, warnings and a fine."
Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli was informed that Lucic's past indiscretions, even if they didn't always lead to suspensions, helped paved the way for Lucic's unpaid vacation this time around.
"What was explained to me was that when there have been incidents before with a player, they look at the whole body of work," Chiarelli said. "I don't know if it's as strong as being a repeat offender, but he's done stuff in the past, according to hockey ops, that go to his character in reference when they're looking at putting up punishment. Brendan didn't say this, but if it was his first incident, I would think maybe he wouldn't have been suspended. Brendan didn't say that, but that's my take on the whole thing."
Even the victim of the hit didn't think it was worthy of a suspension.
"It's hockey, you hit and go into the boards, I don't think it was dirty at all," Rinaldo told CSNPhilly.com. "Shoulder-to-shoulder and just momentum. He's big guy, maybe double my weight. His momentum carried him into the boards awkwardly. I don't think it was dirty at all."
Chiarelli stressed that he didn't feel this particular hit warranted supplemental discipline, but also understood Shanahan's reasoning.
"Again, standing alone, I don't think that hit is a suspendable offense," Chiarelli said. "Really, I don't. There's been a lot worse — there was a lot worse yesterday — and there's some that don't even get called, but I could understand where he's coming from. The concept that they're using is a sound one, so I'm OK with it."