HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- Brendan Shanahan has spoken, and the verdict is a three-game suspension for St. Louis Blues forward' Chris Stewart.
Stewart, a power forward, was penalized for checking from behind on Detroit's Niklas Kronwall during Tuesday night's 2-1 victory over the Red Wings. He will forfeit $46,621.62 in pay, per terms of CBA, and based on his salary. The money goes to Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.
At 11:14 of the first period, Stewart had Kronwall lined up near the Detroit bench and in an effort to get to the puck, gave a hard shove, thrusting Kronwall hard into the boards, with impact coming to the shoulder/head area.
Kronwall missed the remainder of the first period but returned and finished the game. Stewart received a five-minute major for checking from behind and a game misconduct.
Shanahan, a former Blue and now the NHL's Senior Vice President of Player Safety and Hockey Operations, said in a video explanation that: "Stewart is directly behind Kronwall and sees his numbers for quite some time.
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"This does not appear to us to be an attempt to reverse-hit Stewart, and it is our opinion that Kronwall does not contribute significantly to the violent collision with the boards that results from the shove from behind by Stewart. ... The onus is on Stewart to avoid this hit or minimize it."
Shanahan cited NHL Rule No. 41.1 (Boarding): A boarding penalty shall be imposed on any player who checks or pushes a defenseless opponent in such a manner that causes the opponent to hit or impact the boards violently or dangerously. ... The onus is on the player applying the check to ensure his opponent is not in a defenseless position and, if so, he must avoid or minimize contact.
Blues general manager Doug Armstrong, in Toronto for the GM meetings, was supportive of the decision but also supported Stewart, who has had no prior disciplinary history.
"It's a situation that we accept and we move on with," Armstrong said. "But I just want to be 100 percent crystal clear that our support for the type of player Stewart is hasn't wavered. He's a very honest, hard player. This is a hockey play that went awry, but I don't think it's any reflection on the type of player that Chris Stewart is.
"Playing over four years in the League and with 200 games, he's a physical player and this is the first time he's had any type of incident like this. I'm sure we don't expect him to have another like this."
Coach Ken Hitchcock, who had more time to watch the play and react accordingly Wednesday morning, felt he saw that there was a reverse check about to be administered.
"I saw it and I understand it was a potential reverse check," Hitchcock said before the decision was rendered. "Stewie anticipated it ... that's Kronwall's forte ... he's good at it. It was a reverse check and Stewie pushed off the reverse check. A big guy, he's got 30 pounds on (Kronwall) and he's got three inches on him ... what are you going to do? Stewie thought he was coming back at him to protect the puck, and that's what good defensemen do. They reverse check you, so they maintain possession, so you go flying by or right on your (rear end) usually. Whatever happens, happens."
Shanahan indicated that because Stewart has not had a history of violent behavior during his four-year career or that Kronwall did not suffer any type of injury, the suspension may have been lighter than usual.
"It's not a deliberate attempt to injure or anything like that," Hitchcock said. "It's a hockey play that went a little wrong. You've got to figure out balance of responsibility, what percentages does each player bear? There's a mechanism in place for the protection of the players, and you've got to respect that. Whatever happens, you've got to respect it and move forward."
The Red Wings didn't seem to react too harshly afterwards and categorize it as a dirty hit and seemed content at the time with the decision made by the officials of the penalty called on the ice.
"It's one of those plays at the beginning of the year they told us they're going to be sticklers on and it's good to see the right call was made," Wings goalie Jimmy Howard said.
Added winger Danny Cleary: "It's a dangerous play that far from the boards. You try to let up a little bit."
The Blues were sticking up for their teammate after the game, just in case anyone deemed it a dirty hit.
"Stewie had a great shift. Unfortunately, it was a little bit of a turn on Kronwall," defenseman Barret Jackman said after the game. "I didn't see the whole replay, but Stewie's going hard."
Stewart, who has three goals and two assists in 17 games, will miss the Blues' home game against Florida on Thursday, Saturday's game in Minnesota and Tuesday's home game against Los Angeles. He is eligible to return Nov. 23 at Pittsburgh.
"Talking to Brendan a little while ago, I think he felt torn on this one because he knows the type of player Chris is," Armstrong said. "Torn in the positive sense for Chris Stewart, not the negative sense. It was a difficult decision what to give him, but we respect the decision he has to make."