Detroit Red Wings defenseman Brad Stuart endured a brutal hit by Tom Kostopoulos of the Calgary Flames that ended with a broken jaw. Kostopoulos received two minutes for roughing, a questionable call that has been rectified through the NHL’s supplemental discipline process. Because of the ferocity of the hit and the broken jaw that resulted, the hit was reviewed over the weekend and Kostopoulos was given a six game suspension and will forfeit $29,569.92 in salary. Stuart will miss at least six to eight weeks with the injury.
Rule 48, which has already led to several suspensions this season, bans “a lateral or blind side hit to an opponent where the head is targeted and/or the principal point of contact”.
In his statement about the incident, NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbell said that the league deemed the hit a “blow to the head of an unsuspecting and vulnerable player” since Stuart was facing away from center ice when the charge occurred and Kostopoulos had “targeted the head of his opponent.”
Flames GM Jay Feaster contends that the hit was legal while the Red Wings coach Mike Babcock is satisfied with the outcome, saying that “if you make a stand hard enough when this stuff happens, this stuff won’t happen”. Kostopoulos came out saying that while he regrets that Stuart was hurt, he did not target Stuart’s head on the play.
The league will continue its fight against head hits and is likely using Kostopoulos as an example. The injury aside, this is exactly the type of thing that the league sought to get rid of after a rash of high-profile incidents, including James Wisniewski’s hit that knocked Brent Seabrook unconscious. We’ll continue to follow Campbell’s rulings. It does seem that the NHL is following suit with the NFL in an effort to curtail permanent damage to players.