Carolina Hurricanes forward Scott Walker was fined $2,500 but escaped suspension by the NHL on Monday for throwing a punch that may have broken the orbital bone of Boston Bruins defenseman Aaron Ward's face.
The Bruins accused Walker of a sucker punch, but the League ruled otherwise and decided to rescind the automatic suspension given to Walker after a hearing with League disciplinarian Colin Campbell.
"I accept the League's decision," Walker said in a statement. "Based on what was said on the ice as I was dropping my gloves, it was my understanding that I was engaged in an altercation."
Hurricanes general manager Jim Rutherford seemed to believe that karma may have taken place with the decision.
"We are satisfied with the League's ruling," Rutherford said in a press release. "After our team received several punches throughout the series leading up to Game 5, it was a matter of time before one was going to be thrown back."
The Bruins were unavailable for comment following the decision, but based on comments after the game and following an optional skate Monday afternoon, they will not be happy that Walker did not at least receive the automatic suspension he was eligible for via the instigator rule.
"Personally, I know we’re all entitled to our opinion, (but) I’d be disappointed,” Bruins coach Clause Julien said. "In reviewing what I saw, I just didn’t like what happened. I’m not going to start comparing and stuff like that. I just don’t think there was any need for that. He sucker punched him once coming into the scrum when (Ward) was involved with another player, and then he dropped his gloves and sucker punched him.”
Julien shunned the idea that Ward should’ve been ready or "known it was coming."
"I don’t care what people say about Ward should’ve protected himself," he said. "He had no intention of getting involved. We asked our guys to stay composed and not fall into that trap and he just did that. A guy with Walker’s experience should know better than to sucker punch a guy and, again, this is an area that I don’t deal with. I deal with my team and let other people deal with the situation.”
Bruins resident enforcer Shawn Thornton, who got into a tussle with Hurricanes forward Tim Conboy, felt Walker’s punch was dirty but said the Bruins would have to live with the League’s decision either way.
"I just know that I thought it was a sucker punch, shot to the head … whatever. The League will make the decisions and we’ll live with whatever decision," he said.
When asked if retribution would be delivered on the ice or if Walker’s presence would serve as a distraction, Thornton replied:
"No … there’s too much at stake right now and we need to focus on the next game and bringing it back here. But let’s just say we have a long memory."