John Scott doesn’t want to be known as a dirty player and says he did not intend to injure Boston Bruins forward Loui Eriksson on Wednesday.
At the 5:49 mark of the third period at First Niagara Center in the Sabres’ game against Boston, Scott hit Eriksson in the head near center ice. Eriksson had to be helped off the ice and did not return to the game. Scott subsequently fought Bruins defenseman Adam McQuaid and received a five-minute major for fighting and a 10-minute match penalty.
“I don’t think I’m a dirty player. I try to play within the code and within the rules,” he said after the team’s practice at First Niagara Center on Thursday. “This is my first suspension and I don’t think I’m a dirty player. I don’t try to be a dirty player. I feel really upset. I was sick to my stomach last night knowing what happened and watching the video, I just kind of regret the situation. I don’t want to be a dirty player.”
He now faces an in-person hearing with the NHL Department of Player Safety in New York City for the hit. Scott was offered the opportunity for an in-person hearing as required by provisions of the Collective Bargaining Agreement for any suspension that can exceed five games. As of Thursday morning, he did not know when that hearing would be held.
Scott said he sent a text message to Eriksson after the game, apologizing for the hit. He also said that he did not realize the hit was to Eriksson’s head until he saw a replay from the penalty box.
“It happened pretty fast. I just thought I was completing a check but obviously I kind of, you know, hit his head and it wasn’t exactly what I was aiming for,” Scott said. “I didn’t want to do that. It was just a bad play and it’s unfortunate what happened.”
Eriksson stayed overnight in Buffalo as a precautionary measure.
Prior to the game against Boston, Scott averaged 4:54 of ice time in six games. At the time of the hit on Eriksson, Scott had already skated 5:15, his second-highest total of the season.
“John’s been playing the whole season for us,” Sabres coach Ron Rolston said. “It’s not like we played him in one game. He’s been playing the whole year for us and he’s been getting minutes the whole year.”
After the game, Bruins coach Claude Julien made his frustration with both Scott and the incident known.
“It's unfortunate but the guy who did it did his job tonight,” Julien said. “He's out there for two reasons and that's either to fight or to hurt. He did his job tonight.”
When asked about Julien’s comments, Rolston disagreed with that assessment and stood by his player.
“I don’t buy that. I don’t think Johnny’s that type of person,” Rolston said. “He is a fighter in this league, but he’s not looking for that. He wants to become a better player and I don’t think that was in Johnny’s mind at all.”
Scott drew attention in the preseason during a line brawl against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Rolston kept Scott on the ice after a fight between Corey Tropp and Jamie Devane. When the puck dropped, Scott went after Phil Kessel and Rolston was fined by the League for “player selection and team conduct.”
On Thursday, Scott defended his role on the team and denied any accusation that Rolston sent him on the ice against the Bruins with the intent of hurting another player.
“It’s just nonsense. There were 14 minutes left in the game and if you watch my shifts, our line was doing pretty well that game. We had zone time, we were really playing well,” he said. “So to say he sends me out there like to hurt somebody is just asinine. It’s completely false and it’s not what happens at all.
"I’m a hockey player. I go out there and I play my game. I’m physical, I hit. That’s my role. I’m not going to score a million goals. I get frustrated when people say I’m a goon and this and that. I have a role. I do it. I go out there, I’m physical and it’s unfortunate what happened last night, but to say that Ron sent me out there to do anything with any [malicious intentions] or anything is just completely false.”