NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has rejected Philadelphia Flyers forward Jakub Voracek‘s appeal of his two-game suspension, citing “clear and convincing evidence” that justified the ban for interference on New York Islanders defenseman Johnny Boychuk.
Last Saturday in an eventual 5-2 win for the Flyers, Boychuk quickly skated toward Voracek and the on-coming puck. Voracek, saying he feared for his safety on a potential hit from Boychuk, leaned his body into the Islanders defenseman, whose head collided with Voracek’s back. Boychuk was helped off the ice, though not before he pointed to the penalty box and shouted “I’m going to get you” at the Flyers forward.
The Department of Player Safety suspended Voracek for two games, despite it being the first supplemental discipline of his career. The National Hockey League Players’ Association appealed the suspension on Voracek’s behalf — a rare move for a ban of just two games, but an essential one for the Flyers, who sit five points out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Voracek missed their win over Ottawa on Monday, and now will miss their game against division-leading Washington on Thursday.
In his hearing with Bettman, Voracek acknowledged that he interfered with Boychuk on the play, but said he was simply bracing himself for the hit rather than lunging at the defenseman. Bettman disagreed, writing:
“While I accept Mr. Voracek’s explanation that he thought Mr. Boychuk was going to initiate a check, the video makes it clear that it was Mr. Voracek who initiated the contact. At the hearing, it was acknowledged that Mr. Voracek had other options available to him, but instead Mr. Voracek moved into Mr. Boychuk’s path by taking a step to the left and driving upwards into him. The onus was on Mr. Voracek to avoid causing a significant blow to Mr. Boychuk’s head.”
Bettman said that despite Voracek having “maintained a strong character and clean record,” that doesn’t absolve him from “the responsibility to play this game in a safe manner in accordance with the applicable rules.”
Voracek is eligible to return to the Flyers for Friday night’s game at Toronto. He has 18 goals and 43 assists in 66 games this season.