The National Hockey League’s Department of Player Safety is likely to rule against Zack Kassian and had him a suspension on Monday for beating on Caglary’s Matt Tkachuk, who refused to engage Kassian in a fight after charging and hitting him.
Player Safety has also said there will be no discipline for Tkachuk after his dangerous hits on Kassian last night, reports ESPN: “Both hits delivered on Kassian were legal, full body checks delivered to a player carrying the puck.”
But former NHL players and league insiders have much better things to say about Kassian than they do Tkachuk, whom fans of the Edmonton Oilers have labelled as The Turtle or Turtlechuk for his refusal to fight Kassian.
Said TSN’s Ray Ferraro, an ex-NHL sniper, on the Twitter: “On Tkachuk hits v Kassian. I’m serious here. Aren’t these the same hits Raffi Torres used to throw that the league eventually said were penalties? Any hit from above goal line to player coming from below. #thenandnow”
And TSN commentator Jason Strudwick, who played defence for more than a decade in the NHL: “Kassian will find his road dinners paid for more often by other NHL players for his work Saturday night. The old ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’ situation. #freebies #subclubcoupons… You can’t stop the antics of Tkachuk. He is wired that way. So you go after guys who aren’t wired like that and can score for the Flames. Make their night uncomfortable and skate away from Tkachuk. But I would have had the same reaction if Tkachuk had hit me like that. He is a LW coming from the top of circle in own end to hit Kassian behind his net. He was looking for that hit.”
And Corey Hirsch, former NHL goalie and current Sportsnet commentator: “2 reckless head hits in the same game to Kassian, and he’s going to get suspended for having to take matters into his own hands. Smh.”
And former NHL winger Scottie Upshall, commenting on the above clip: “From this angle, it’s clear as day MT (Matt Tkachuk) has ABSOLUTELY ZERO intention of making a hockey play. Again, for those of u who haven’t played at any level, other than Xbox, our new NHL states u must acknowledge there’s a puck on the ice at some point (I had no idea most nights either!)…. Kassian payed the price already. His team lost a big game on his instigator penalty. Smoked 3 times by M.T and he took it like a MAN. By the 3rd hit, he had enough and let the kid know it’s still a MANS game. (Or is it?) Sometimes a punch in the face (or 5) is what a guy needs… For those u haven’t played the game…. coming down from your WING (as a winger) to hit a vulnerable guy on a wraparound is as DIRTY as it gets… I know because I’ve done it, lots. I deserved a punch in the face too. If this hit was on McDavid, 10 GAMER MIN!.”
And former NHLer PJ Stock, now a hockey commentator: “This is where the game is going in the wrong direction. How many players are with concussions today bc of players allowed to get away with their style of play and not be held accountable. The same intention of that hit, yes way way worse on many levels, but by a rookie with-No history- gets 20 games (Stock linked here to a hit by Steve Downie on Dean McAmmond). Yes player left his feet and Dean was hurt but intentions are the same. 20 games. No history. If Connor McDavid were to receive that hit..and get hurt…would Kassian be having this talk? Or would we celebrate him?”
NHL insiders also came to the defence of Kassian.
Boston Bruins insider Joe Haggerty of NBC sports: “The NHL is getting in their own way by moving to punish Zack Kassian after he handled things on the ice w/Matthew Tkachuk in the right way. A vicious way, but the right way. Once again they protect gutless opportunists & punish guys trying to deter it”
In a column, Haggerty added: “Maybe the NHL will handle it the proper way and simply slap Kassian with a fine rather than a more draconian suspension for doing what many NHL players want to do to Tkachuk. It’s another example of the NHL protecting a rat-type player that doesn’t want to answer for their predatory actions on the ice and instead going after somebody that was defending themselves in the way they know best. One player is pretty clearly trying to knock the other one’s head off while lining him up for hits that he doesn’t see coming. The other one is simply trying to curtail the action albeit by throwing the 6-foot-2, 200-pound Tkachuk around like he’s a child that snuck his way into a men’s league hockey game.”
And Hockey Night in Canada host Dan Murphy: “One (if not both) of Tkachuk’s hits was really dirty. I don’t mind Kassian’s response at all. I don’t mind Tkachuk not fighting there. Adds to his elite level of a crap disturber. Thanks for coming to my TED Talk. I will not be taking questions.”
And NHL Player Safety Mod, a moderator not affiliated with the NHL who comments on major incidents: “Two separate incidents with Zack Kassian-Matthew Tkachuk tonight. If officials made correct call, Tkachuk would’ve been removed from the game in the first period after an illegal check to the head of Kassian at 9:18 in the first period.”
And scout Mark Seidel of North American Central Scouting Independent Bureau: “To be clear. I love Matthew Tkachuk & he could play for me anytime but he can’t have it both ways. If he wants to lay predatory hits, he needs to stand up & be accounted for. He clearly targeted Kassian but then bailed on answering the bell. He’ll learn but it’s a bad look.”
And the Journal’s Jim Matheson on Twitter: “I must be operating in a different universe on the Kassian-Tkachuk scenario. Kassian should have received a major for fighting and Tkachuk two for a clear charge from behind. And what was linesman doing as Kassian kept throwing them? Kassian will likely get game or two suspension… Our game has become so sanitized that Kassian trying to get his pound of flesh from Tkachuk for running him dangerously from behind into the end boards is looked upon as a cowardly move because Tkachuk won’t fight or hold on. Sorry I’m old school…”
- If the on-ice referees had got it right Tkachuk would have been out of the game for the charging blind side head shot on Kassian in the first period.
- If the NHL doesn’t take this illegal and dangerous initial hit into account when it considers Kassian’s attack on Tkachuk, it’s rejecting pertinent evidence. It was a failure of the refs to miss the dangerous element of that first Tkachuk hit, and it’s gross incompetence on the part of NHL Player Safety to now say there was no illegal aspect to that initial hit.
- I wish the Oilers had drafted Matt Tkachuk. But he needs to be suspended for these vicious and sneaky hits or all hell is going to break loose. It already is.