The National Hockey League announced today that it has suspended Ducks defenseman and captain Chris Pronger eight games for stepping on Vancouver Canucks forward Ryan Kesler in Anaheim's 4-1 victory Wednesday night at Honda Center.
The decision came after phone hearing with Pronger and NHL Senior Executive Vice President and Director of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell on Saturday morning.
The NHL had previously chosen not to suspend Pronger because of a lack of proper video evidence of the play. But a new angle was presented to the NHL on Thursday night.
The incident occurred in the opening minute of the second period, when Kesler fell to the ice and appeared to wrap his legs around Pronger's feet. As Pronger tried to get free, he appeard to step on Kesler's leg.
There was no injury to Kesler and no penalty was called on the play.
"In attempting to free himself, Pronger carelessly and recklessly brought his foot down," Campbell said in a statement.
The Ducks have nine games remaining in the regular season, making Pronger eligible to return for the April 6 regular season finale at home against the Phoenix Coyotes.Following are statements from Pronger and Ducks Executive Vice President/General Manager Brian Burke:
"I'd like to apologize to Ryan Kesler, the Vancouver Canucks, my teammates and the National Hockey League for my actions last Wednesday night," said Pronger. "While I did not intend to injure Ryan, I respect the league's decision on this matter and look forward to returning to the ice and leading my teammates into the playoffs."
"We understand the NHL's determination to reduce skate-blade incidents and accept the process and Mr. Campbell’s judgment. We also stand behind our captain, a player with great character and leadership qualities that are critical to our club.”
Pronger, Burke and Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle commented further following the Ducks' morning skate:
Reaction to the League’s decision:
"I don’t think ‘surprised’ would be the word. I think looking at other precedents and other situations that have happened, certainly as a League we don’t condone these types of incidents and obviously want to put these behind us and talk about the important parts of the game."
On pleading his case to the league:
"I didn’t really plead my case all that much. There probably wasn’t too much to say, merely just to replay the incident to them and understand the League doesn’t condone instances like this. I expressed my sincere apologies and they did what they needed to do and I’d have to live with it."
"First, I apologize to Ryan Kesler. Second, to the Vancouver Canucks organization. Third, to the Anaheim Ducks organization, the League and the fans. They obviously deserve an apology as well. This is not a place for these types of instances in our game."
"We respect the process and we’ll abide by the decision."
"I think what’s happened here is there’s a lot of sensitivity to anything related to skates right now. I would have to hope and believe any that the NHL disregards any kind of outcry when they evaluate these kinds of things. I have a lot more confidence in Colin Campbell that he’s never going to respond to media pressure. I know I never did when I did that job."
On Pronger’s eight-game suspension:
"That’s what the league has decided. We have to live with the consequences and deal with that. Now it’s an opportunity, that’s why you acquire players at the trade deadline and have depth in your lineup. We have the choice between Bergeron and DiPenta to go in. That’s just the way it is and we move forward."
On adjustments to the power play:
"It changes a little bit from the standpoint that we have two players to support that position. I just talked about Bergeron and now I moved Schneider into a more prominent role. We were specifically starting power plays with Pronger and Niedermayer and now we’ll start with Schneider and Niedermayer. We have the ability to come back with Bergeron and Huskins or Bergeron and Beauchemin. So we feel we have enough depth at the position, specifically for the power play and we’ll play to some players’ strengths and we’ll move forward as a team."