Borowiecki Suspended 1 Game for Elbowing Vaakanainen
Source / National Hockey League
Boston Bruins rookie defenseman Urho Vaakanainen is out indefinitely after being concussed by an elbow to the face, though his offender, Mark Borowiecki, will only be suspended for one game.
The incident came on Oct. 23 in the first period of Vaakanainen’s second career NHL game, during a scrum in front of the Senators’ net. Vaakanainen skated towards the crease to see if he could find the loose puck under goaltender Craig Anderson when Borowiecki turned to see Vaakanainen coming, and raised his elbow to the rookie’s face.
Vaakanainen left the ice but stayed on the bench for the remainder of the period. The Bruins later announced he would not return to the game that night due to a concussion. There was no penalty called on the play.
The Bruins called up the 18th overall pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft on an emergency basis the previous weekend after defenseman Kevan Miller and Torey Krug had to depart from the team’s western road trip for injury evaluations back in Boston. Now Vaakanainen’s concussion will only add to the injury load, particularly on the back-end.
Borowiecki received a one-game suspension for the incident, with the NHL Department of Player Safety seemingly airing on a side of leniency. In the video released to explain the suspension, Head of Player Safety George Parros both excuses Borowiecki’s hit as accidental contact and presumes a stricter role by not dishing out a simple fine. Parros explains that because of the scrambling nature of the action in the crease, “the posture and sudden movements by players attempting to create scoring chances often cause defenders’ sticks, arms or gloves to ride up accidentally and make contact with an opponent’s head.” Parros also states that the Department of Player Safety “accepts Borowiecki’s argument that he was not aiming for Vaakanainen’s head,” even though Borowiecki very obviously looks behind him and sees Vaakanainen coming before raises his left arm.
While the video also acknowledges that the Senators alternate captain has been suspended before, they say it was for an “unrelated incident” and do not refer to him as a repeat offender in this video. Borowiecki received a two-game suspension in December of 2016 for a dangerous hit to the head to Tyler Toffoli of the LA Kings against the boards.
Seeing as this incident also resulted in a dangerous hit to the head and an injury to the player on the receiving end, it may be more efficient to address Borowiecki as a repeat offender and respond with more discipline, so the NHL may actually exhibit the idea of harsher punishment and cracking down of hits to the head and dangerous plays that they claim to employ.
Borowiecki also made headlines regarding dangerous hits several days before this incident, though not for executing one. In a game against the Montreal Canadiens, Canadiens’ forward Brendan Gallagher hit Borowiecki against the boards. Gallagher received a boarding penalty immediately, but Borowiecki spoke later to the media, saying that he felt that there should have been follow-up with Gallagher from the Department of Player Safety. Borowiecki, who suffered a concussion last year following a nasty blindside hit with New York Ranger’s player Brendan Smith, said that “I’m not out there trying to rip guy’s heads off … I do the best I can to not hurt guys.”
The harsher discipline he asked for got delivered several days later, handed to him by the sentencing of a one-game suspension of elbowing Vaakanainen. However, Borowiecki still knows when he’ll be returning to the ice. Vaakanainen, who had just been getting his chance to break into the NHL scene like he had always dreamed of, doesn’t.