Film Study: Hagelin vs. Phillips vs. Bitz

As the NHL Wheel of Justice continues to spin, fans in New York everywhere are all wondering the same thing: Where is the consistency? How can Carl Hagelin and Byron Bitz be suspended for headshots, while Chris Phillips doesn’t even get a phone call?

Well, as someone who has watched every single NHL Disciplinary Video at least once this year, (I find the sound of Brendan Shanahan’s monotone voice very soothing, and it helps relax me so I can fall asleep easier. Seriously.) I feel like I am somewhat qualified to shed light on Shanahan’s thought process.

When you’ve watched as many of these videos as I have, you start to notice a few common buzzwords. If you were playing the NHL Suspension Video Drinking Game, these would be the words you’d have to drink after:

  • Reckless or intentional
  • Principle point of contact
  • Defenceless
  • Minimize or avoid contact
  • Picking the head
  • Full body check

Keeping these criteria in mind, let's go to the video.


Carl Hagelin elbows Daniel Alfredsson in the head.

As the video shows (you had to know it was coming...), Carl Hagelin checks off "Reckless or intentional", "Principle point of contact", and "Picking the head" with this hit, even if Shanny doesn’t explicitly say those phrases in this video. This in conjunction with the fact that Alfredsson left the game made it a near certainty that a suspension was to follow after considering similar suspension-worthy hits.


Next let’s look at the Byron Bitz suspension.

Here we have a hit to the head of a defenceless player when Bitz failed to minimize or avoid contact. Clifford suffered an injury on the play, and the Shanabanhammer came down with the force of a 2 game suspension. Standard.

Now things start getting a little trickier.


Chris Phillips hit on Ryan Callahan.

On the face, this looks similar to past suspension worthy offenses. However, given the precedent that Shanahan has set in the past, I would disagree. While Phillips clearly makes contact with Callahan’s head, Callahan was not defenceless with his back to the boards like in the case of the Bitz suspension or the Tyler Myers suspension. Also, Phillips does not pick Callahan’s head as the principle point of contact as in the Mike Green suspension, nor do his skates leave the ice as in the Alexander Ovechkin suspension. Most damning of all, Callahan did not suffer an injury on the play.

Phillips was rightly penalized after this hit, but the lack of common factors to other suspension-worthy plays is almost certainly what prevented him from receiving a phone call.

Today’s discipline team examines a myriad of factors before deciding whether or not to suspend someone, but not all factors are created equal. It’s clear that merely hitting someone in the head is not a suspension-worthy offence without some other form of indiscretion such as recklessness, picking the head, or an injury. In my opinion, if Callahan had been injured by Phillips (and I’m glad he wasn’t), Phillips would have received a suspension. However, because there was no injury, and the play was penalized in game, Shanahan didn’t feel it necessary to further examine the play.

But that’s just one man’s opinion about one man’s opinion.

This FanPost was written by a member of the Silver Seven community, and does not necessarily reflect the beliefs or opinions of the site managers, editors, or Sports Blogs Nation, Inc.

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