-- The National Hockey League on Thursday suspended Anaheim Ducks
defenseman James Wisniewski
for eight games without pay for his hit to the head area of Chicago Blackhawks
in Wednesday night's game.
The incident occurred at 2:22 of the second period during the Ducks' 4-2 win and resulted in Wisniewski being assessed a minor penalty for charging. Seabrook, who did not have the puck at the time of the hit, was injured on the play and did not return.
Wisniewski, who was suspended for two games on Oct. 31, 2009, is now considered a repeat offender under the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Accordingly, he forfeits $268,292.72 in salary, based on the number of games in the season (82), rather than the number of days (193). The money goes to the Players' Emergency Assistance Fund.
"Mr. Wisniewski delivered a retaliatory hit to the head of an opponent who never had possession of the puck," said Colin Campbell, NHL Senior Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations. "The fact that Mr. Wisniewski is a repeat offender also entered into this decison."
Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said Seabrook will not play in Thursday's game at Los Angeles and is day-to-day.
Wisniewski's suspension will begin Friday night when the Ducks host the New York Islanders. He will be eligible to return April 3 at Los Angeles.
"I am truly sorry that my friend Brent Seabrook was hurt on the play," Wisniewski, a former Hawk, said in a statement released by the Ducks. "I certainly wish him the best. I am, however, very disappointed in the length of the suspension. Eight games is incredibly hard to swallow, especially in comparison to other recent hits that have resulted in lesser punishment."
Commissioner Gary Bettman addressed the suspension on his radio show.
Speaking on The NHL Hour With Gary Bettman, the commissioner said the hit was "completely different" from the one delivered by Pittsburgh forward Matt Cooke earlier this month that left Boston forward Marc Savard with a concussion.
"In that [Wisniewski's] case, unlike some of these others, there was no puck possession, the hitting involved rising up to make contact with the head, and so the circumstances gave rise to being able to punish what we have previously defined -- long before this season -- as illegal acts on the ice," Bettman said.
"And that's why the eight-game suspension."
Ducks general manager Bob Murray said he wasn't happy with the number of games Wisniewski received for his hit.
"The problem I have is the length of it," he said in a conference call after the suspension was announced. "It just seems that Wiz at this point, because of the climate of the League is an easy target. I sure as heck hope that if we're going to crack down, that it is across the board, no matter if you're a star player or not. It can't just be on certain people at the right time. Nothing makes you cringe more than when you see some of the hits this year. All I say is, if you're going to get them, let's get them all.
"He crossed the line and has to get whacked. I support Colin (Campbell). Colin's job is a tough job to do. It is not easy. Let's make it equal across the board, whether it is a fourth-line player or first-line player, whether the player plays on the East Coast or the West Coast."
Murray also said the effect of losing Wisniewski on the ice will be considerable for a team scrambling to stay in the playoff hunt in the West.
"He's a 20-some minute guy," Murray said. "Obviously, it's an awful blow to the hockey team."