During the first minute of the third period of the Calgary Flames’ 4-1 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday, there was a pretty gnarly hit in the Flames zone. Defending an offensive rush by Hurricanes forward Sebastian Aho, Flames captain Mark Giordano made some scary contact with Aho which resulted in an injury to Aho and an ejection for Giordano.
Based on the circumstances of the hit and the injury, will Giordano face any supplementary discipline from the National Hockey League’s Department of Player Safety?
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) January 14, 2018
Roughly 45 seconds into the third period, Aho chipped the puck into the Flames zone and skated around Dougie Hamilton. He cut towards the slot and before he was able to get a shot off, he made contact with Giordano and dropped like a sack of potatoes.
Based on replays, Aho had two points of contact with Giordano: his chin was clipped by Giordano’s left shoulder and his left knee collided with Giordano’s left knee. Aho left the game and did not return. Giordano was given a match penalty for illegal contact to the head and was ejected from the game.
Giordano’s ejection was under Rule 48 (Illegal Contact with the Head), so that’s where we’ll check.
Giordano's match penalty appears to be a Rule 48 penalty, which means we'll get tons of debate about whatever happens. pic.twitter.com/aZ5xE4YENa
— Ryan Pike (@RyanNPike) January 14, 2018
The crux with match penalties is “intent to injure,” which is extremely subjective. Looking at the available replays, it’s hard to argue that Giordano doesn’t make contact with Aho’s head because he does. But the related question is just as important: was it possible for Giordano to not make contact with Aho’s head?
Giordano doesn’t really move that much, slightly jutting out his shoulder as Aho approaches – probably out of reflex, because otherwise getting bumped by a moving player would topple him over. At the same time as Giordano juts out his shoulder, Aho tucks his head down towards his chest to brace for the contact (and unintentionally creates a situation where there’s no way Giordano could avoid any head contact).
Peters on Giordano hit on Aho: "Obviously, there's some head contact. I don't know there was much intent, to be honest with you. I thought (Giordano's) arm was tucked in low. But it ended up catching him in the head, so unfortunate."
— Chip Alexander (@ice_chip) January 14, 2018
It’s really hard to judge intent, but it’s also very difficult to attempt to injure a player when you remain stationary on the ice.
When Matthew Tkachuk was suspended earlier this season – well, both times – part of Player Safety’s justification was Tkachuk’s history of infractions. Giordano’s record is relatively clean, which is pretty impressive given his style of play and how much he plays against the best in the league. He crashes and bangs, but he’s largely kept himself out of trouble.
Giordano’s only run-in with Player Safety was a $10,000 fine levied in February 2013 for slew-footing. He earned a lot of ire from the Anaheim Ducks for a collision that injured Cam Fowler at the end of last season, but he didn’t receive any Player Safety hearing and so didn’t receive a fine or suspension.
While Aho was unfortunately hurt on the play – on incidental knee-on-knee contact – it seems unlikely that Giordano receives any supplemental discipline. The play will be reviewed because every match penalty is reviewed, but there seems to be both a lack of predatory action on Giordano’s part and a lack of a disciplinary track record to motivate Player Safety to turn a borderline play into a suspendable one.
Hopefully Aho recovers and doesn’t miss any time.