TORONTO - Don Cherry wasn't a fan of the cross-check that landed Winnipeg Jets defenceman Dustin Byfuglien a four-game suspension earlier this week. But the hockey commentator did offer an explanation for why Byfuglien may have done it.
Byfuglien was suspended by the league on Thursday for a cross-check to the head of New York Rangers centre J.T. Miller during Tuesday's game. Miller had fallen to the ice near the crease after taking a swipe at a rebound off the pads of Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec. The 260-pound Byfuglien looked down at the prone Miller and drove his stick in to the back of the Rangers forward's head.
But Cherry didn't see Miller's actions as something more than just a swipe right before Byfuglien's cross-check.
"Watch the slash here," Cherry said Saturday on his Coach's Corner segment of Hockey Night in Canada while video of the hit played over his voice. "Miller gives a little slash to (Pavelec). That's why he did it. He never meant to do it on his neck. ... He should never have done it ... Anyhow, you don't slash the goalie.
"Brett Hull used to say never touch a goaltender when he's on the ice. That's tough (Byfuglien) got four games but he deserved it."
The cross-check occurred late in the second period of Winnipeg's 3-2 loss to New York.
The NHL's Department of Player Safety noted that when Byfuglien delivered the cross-check to Miller, Jets forward Mark Scheifele was already carrying the puck up ice, away from Winnipeg's net. The league, in a video posted on the NHL's website, characterized the blow as both "dangerous'' and being delivered with "excessive force.''