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Report: No suspension for Nystrom after Letang headshot

Mar 1, 2012, 1:35 PM EDT

According to the Dallas Morning News and ESPN Dallas, Stars forward Eric Nystrom won’t face any additional discipline for his hit on Pittsburgh defenseman Kris Letang during last night’s 4-3 shootout loss in Dallas.

The hit has caused great debate in the hockey community, largely because of the fierce argument it instigated between NHL on NBC analysts Mike Milbury and Jeremy Roenick:

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Nystrom received a two-minute roughing penalty for the hit; Letang left the contest and did not return. While holding Letang out was precautionary given his concussion history (he missed 21 games earlier this season with one), the Penguins have officially listed him as day-to-day.

Dallas GM Joe Nieuwendyk spoke to the Morning News about the league’s decision.

“They just said they had looked at it and there were no grounds for a suspension,” Nieuwendyk said. “It was just a hockey play, that’s how I saw it.”


Debate gets … heated between Milbury, Roenick

Video: Eric Nystrom’s hit on Kris Letang

Penguins slip by Stars in shootout thriller

  1. sportsfreak13 - Mar 1, 2012 at 1:41 PM

    Not surprised. Really hope letangs alright. Stuff happens because its such a fast game. Move on.

    • sabatimus - Mar 1, 2012 at 3:00 PM

      Totally agree. Hit was fine. If Letang doesn’t lean forward to play the puck, this doesn’t happen. And even when he did, the principle point of contact was Letang’s chest. Shanny got this right.

  2. cableguymike - Mar 1, 2012 at 1:50 PM

    Don’t like the hit.

    He made zero attempt to go for the puck and when he realized Letang was going to be by him he tried to take his head off. Shades of Moore-Naslund. They need to get these kinds of hits out of the game. I don’t care if the head wasn’t the principle point of contact or not. It’s no different than hanging your knee out when you know you’re beat.

    • sportsfreak13 - Mar 1, 2012 at 1:58 PM

      he didn’t target his head at all. His elbows were tucked in like they were supposed to sucks because its letang but you can’t suspend for finishing a check. Had letang not lunged for the puck exposing his head this wouldn’t even be talked about.

      • cableguymike - Mar 1, 2012 at 2:28 PM

        You have to make an attempt to go for the puck. He didn’t. That’s why I don’t like it. I said I don’t care if you target the head or not. The fact of the matter is he could have let up but he didn’t because he knew he was beat if he didn’t get a piece of him. The hit shows zero respect for other players. Should Letang put himself in that position? No. Should the other player let up when the other guy is in a vulnerable position. Absolutely.

        Welcome to the new NHL.

      • sportsfreak13 - Mar 1, 2012 at 2:40 PM

        i love the pens but how many times did Adams or asham take the body and not play the puck last night? Its hockey to finish a check. Its not like nystrom is a puck handling wizard. Hes a grinder.No superhuman could have the reaction time to pull up on a hit going that fast while realizing letang dropped his head into a vulnerable position. Agree to disagree. Go pens!

    • sabatimus - Mar 1, 2012 at 3:03 PM

      You can “not care” about the head being the principle point all you want–but that’s how the rule is written.

    • firstandonlywarning - Mar 1, 2012 at 10:03 PM

      “ive never played hockey in my life”

      • firstandonlywarning - Mar 1, 2012 at 10:05 PM

        Like most Pens fans
        Btw where were yas when you’re team was nearly out the door?

        Pens fans are by far the most clueless about the sport they “follow” than any other fan base.

        Move over Blackhawk and Bruin fans.

        Its funny how when a team wins something all of a sudden there are masses of ignorant fools yammering about hockey.

  3. govtminion2 - Mar 1, 2012 at 1:50 PM

    Obvious dirty hit. This bum could have played the puck but he decided to try to knock tangers beautiful locks off his head. Still this won’t slow down The Franchise once the Soupcan Army comes to town

    • firstandonlywarning - Mar 1, 2012 at 10:06 PM

      Never played a single game huh?
      Or played in Quebec

      • 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Mar 1, 2012 at 10:36 PM

        Our good friend multiplepersonalitypensfan thinks he can fool us by copying other user’s names. Chances are he’s never played a game or even seen one not involving the “Soupcan Army” or “The Franchise” or whatever.

    • mlblogstwinkie - Mar 2, 2012 at 12:58 PM

      take up lawndarts cuz hockey is way to much of a mans sport for your petty little mind

  4. 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Mar 1, 2012 at 1:58 PM

    Good call by Shanahan. You can’t suspend a guy for throwing a hit that didn’t look great but wasn’t dirty. Like JR said, Nystrom doesn’t even hit Letang in the head.

    • sportsfreak13 - Mar 1, 2012 at 2:00 PM

      go to they have a still shot that shows there was contact to the head. Regardless good call shanny.

      • 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Mar 1, 2012 at 2:42 PM

        Shocking that a Pens blog thinks it was a head-shot.

      • sportsfreak13 - Mar 1, 2012 at 2:49 PM

        pictures don’t lie. People do.

      • 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Mar 1, 2012 at 3:13 PM

        I’ve looked at their evidence and it shows he contacts Letang’s chest. The contact to his head is minimal and incidental. This is a standard, clean hit. At least you can agree that no suspension is the right call.

        P.S. pictures can lie

    • pens5829 - Mar 1, 2012 at 6:33 PM

      JR, like Shanahan, is a tool. Cement between the ears.

      • 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Mar 1, 2012 at 7:01 PM

        I can tell you’re not a big fan of people who disagree with you.

      • pens5829 - Mar 1, 2012 at 9:08 PM

        You’re pretty smart.

  5. bsputnik - Mar 1, 2012 at 2:15 PM

    So the NHL has no intentions on having a real head-shot policy in place. They are just going to have everyone keep guessing, huh? Never thought I would be so vehemently in Milbury’s corner on an issue.

    Matt Cooke would get 15 games for this hit.

    • sabatimus - Mar 1, 2012 at 3:07 PM

      Milbury interpreted the play incorrectly. And given Milbury’s history of violence, I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets thrown off the network for beating somebody up–he’s already had his kids’ hockey run-in.

      • brian32556 - Mar 1, 2012 at 6:13 PM

        Mr. Consistency, Mike Milbury, would have had Nystrom strung and quartered during the intermission of the game. This is the same Mr. Milbury who continually says “it’s a man’s game” and let them play. Except it would seem, if they’re foreign born. Milbury HAS consistently mocked foreigners as if they were stealing jobs from North American born players. How he get into a lead color commentator role is beyond me. He never did anything as a player or a coach. All he can do is TALK.

    • bmoreredfury311 - Mar 1, 2012 at 5:24 PM

      That is because Matt Cooke is a repeat offender and has had several dirty head shots, specifically the one ending Savard career. Good call Shanahan

    • merchaholic - Mar 7, 2012 at 10:19 AM

      Matt Cooke is a douche though.

  6. hagigun - Mar 1, 2012 at 2:36 PM

    Great call by the league here.

    Nystrom is on the forecheck. He saw he was going to lose the race to the puck. So instead he went to where Letang would have had to go to get the puck. He planned on playing the body and separating the man from the puck. Well, Letang chickened out from the hit and just reached into the area his body would have or should have been if he was going to play the puck. Nystrom would have gone square into the center of Letangs body had Letang gone and retrieved the puck and welcomed the contact.

    So when Letang decides to poke at the puck and put his vulnerable body in a vulnerable position, thats on him. It looks like a sideswipe only because Letang reached into an area his whole body should have been occupying.

    Letang has a few options. 1) Play the puck: Go get it and take and absorb the hit. 2) Give up on the puck and stay in a defensively sound position and let Nystrom have it. He happened to go with option 3, reach at the puck because I dont want to quit on it, but don’t want to get steam-rolled because I’m scared.

    Players get hurt when they play scared and try to avoid injury. Letang has been known to put himself in bad positions before. Sooner or later he needs to either man up and accept he may get knocked over by a forechcker and try absorbing the hit, or just play passive defense. You can’t commit to the puck, and then back out at the last second. That’s how you get hurt doing anything. 100% commitment, or don’t go near it.

    One item they didn’t touch on was Malkin’s reaction later in the game on Nystrom. After the whistle a little shove by Malkin, shove by Nystrom…next thing you know Malkin takes a big swing and clocks Nystrom in the face, then swings his arms/stick upside the back part of his helmet. 2 crystal clear shots at Nystroms head. Now, i’m not going soft or school girl here, but if we want to talk headshots, what about that!? We have seen it doesn’t take much of a blow to the head to cause concussions (See: Crosby, Justin Morneau). That was the cheapest hit all game and got 4 minutes deservedly so, but no one ever talks about the league looking into that. In my opinion that’s intent to injure and a clear head shot. Sure it was close quarters, but sooner or later someone will get concussed in a situation like that and then you’ll hear about it.

    I don’t have any rooting interest either. It was an awesome game though. Hopefully Letang is alright, never want to see anyone get inured like that. Being a Wild fan I’m all too familiar with concussions with PMB and Latendresse + Morneau for the Twins.

    • mfcohiba - Mar 1, 2012 at 4:42 PM

      Exactly, we saw Milbury and Jones completely ignore the Hart Trophy candidates’ hits to Nystrom’s head. VERY consistent, gentlemen.

    • taytay099 - Mar 1, 2012 at 5:33 PM

      “Letang has been known to put himself in bad positions before.”

      He put himself in a bad situation just like when Max Pacioretty broke his nose earlier in the season. He tried to cut into the middle where there were 3 Habs waiting. Sucks to see one of the best D in the league get hurt, but he’s his own worst enemy on both these hits.

    • ndrdog - Mar 2, 2012 at 1:48 PM

      You seem to have missed the option that Letang actually attempted to use 4) chip the puck around the oncoming player, who has no intent on playing said puck, and going around that player to require the puck and begin a offensive break. Of course this option was wrecked when Letang was hit by Nystrom, spins, and can’t leave the ice without help. Personally I don’t think there was anything wrong with the hit. I do have a problem with people like you.

      Show me a hockey player who doesn’t put themselves in dangerous positions and I’ll show you a soccer player. The game moves way too fast to constantly think about safety. Hopefully you were taught to play in a safe way and it’s the way you play, it’s when you start thinking about it that you get hurt. If anyone screwed up on this play it was Nystrom. He simply took the wrong angle. Happens all the time, except this time someone got hurt. When Nystrom realized that he wasn’t going to reach the puck and that Letang was only punching it forward but physically cutting back, away from the boards, Nystrom had two choices 1) hit the boards letting everyone who was watching know that you screwed up and try to recover asap or 2) turn into Letang and deliver a hit that would result in a roughing penalty.

      The item they didn’t touch on…..Nystrom and Steve Ott were by the boards with the puck and Malkin showed some hustle, and skated down and tried to chip the puck forward, in doing so he did crash into Nystrom and Ott who still seamed to be standing by the puck doing nothing(???). Nystrom (not Malkin) took offense and threw a shoulder and than a left hook to the face, at which point Malkin retaliated with several unanswered punches. Than Nystrom turned and looked to the ref, with hands raised, and a “I didn’t do it” look. If you want something that needs to be taken out of hockey, it’s this kind of crap. If you are looking for something even worse, look no further than earlier in this same game when Radek Dvorak went hard into the boards under his own power but close to a player from the other club and stayed down for some time. As soon as he stood up, he looked up at the scoreboard to see if he had drawn a penalty or not. When he saw that he hadn’t, he was suddenly cured. How many games have been changed because someone faked an injury to get a penalty and a goal was scored?

      One last thing, that shootout last night was fantastic! I will remember that last shooter forever, and if I do forget all I’ll have to do is look on YouTube and it will always be right there.

      • elvispocomo - Mar 2, 2012 at 7:56 PM

        That option he ‘missed’ isn’t really an option when it involves you reaching further than you should and they trying to “ole” your way around the player coming to hit you like a bullfighter. I wouldn’t have listed it either. Letang wanted to get the puck first but if he’s not smart enough to anticipate a hit (nevermind reacting to one) before putting himself in bad spot, there’s not much anyone can do to help him.

        The second paragraph of your post starts by talking about how the game of hockey is “too fast to constantly think about safety.” You can’t say that and then say Nystrom had time to decide between wo options, he was clearly commited to the hit and didn’t try and reach to hit Letang at all like you would if the player was clearly going to get around you. If he did try and react like he was going to get beat, he would have stuck out his elbow and actually made contact to the head as the principle point of contact.

        They were already too close with Nystrom commited when Letang lowered his upper body by reaching for the puck and put himself in the way of a hit, a reach he couldn’t recover from to get around Nystrom himself.

      • ndrdog - Mar 3, 2012 at 1:00 AM

        It’s been commented on by many professional commentators that Nystrom had to travel some distance to make the hit on Letang so the idea that he was “commited” to anything and unable to exercise his own free will by skating three inches farther right or left,is simply, ludicrous. To blame a player who gets hurt for what the other player did or didn’t do, and insulting the hurt players intelligence only helps to weaken any standing you may have to be taken the least bit seriously.

        As I stated, hockey is a game that is too fast to constantly think about safety, however it is not a game that you don’t have to play safely. Like any game, you can be a dirty player or clean or the anywhere in between and you can do this within the rules of the game or outside the rules if you decide to. The speed of hockey, I believe, make it a much more dangerous sport than the other major sports. Clearly, Nystrom knew that he was not going to get to the puck, although possibly not on the angle or video that you are seeing, and decided to go for the hit. I NEVER said that Letang had, or was, beaten Nystrom and that Nystrom was reacting in desperation and thus the need for Nystrom to lunge or move into Letang, in fact I stated quite clearly that there wasn’t anything wrong with the hit, in my opinion.

        So, as I read your post I understand that you believe A) Nystrom was already committed to the hit B) because there was no elbow to the head of Letang, Nystrom was in full control of his actions and was acting like any sane player in the same position would C) Letang, by reaching for the puck, knowingly put himself in the way of the hit and in an unsafe position and thus the responsibility for anything that follows becomes Letangs and Letangs alone.

        Ny using your logic I can now see that if Pierre Turgeon had only turned right instead of left and not into the path that Dale Hunter had already committed to than everything would have been all right. It was all Trugeons fault, I guess he probably shouldn’t have even scored the goal in the first place to set Hunter on the path, but I can just keep going on and on like this forever………..

  7. rsl22 - Mar 1, 2012 at 2:38 PM

    Basically every hit is a player not playing the puck and going for body contact. That’s a ridiculous argument to make. Letang isn’t tiny at 6’0, but he was definitely leaning forward which lowered his head. The contact was all body, no elbow, and if Letang was standing up it would have been to his chest.

    Even Bylsma when being interviewed at the commercial break said Letang needs to do a better job protecting himself.

    I don’t want players to play dirty or miss games from illegal hits, but that just isn’t the case here.

  8. michiganhockey11 - Mar 1, 2012 at 2:39 PM

    I’d have to agree with Roenick on this one. Direct contact was shoulder to Letang’s chest and his arms were completely down. Basic physics will tell you that if you get rocked, it will throw your body in the opposite direction (which includes your head). It is debateable whether Nystrom was finishing his check or perhaps guilty of an interference on the play which at most would be 2 minutes.

    They teach you in pee-wee never to lung out for a puck like that and expose yourself, in addition to never playing the puck standing 3-4 feet off the boards. Always use the boards as a cushion.

  9. jpelle82 - Mar 1, 2012 at 3:36 PM

    figured. pens fan here. didnt see anything suspendable. dont like it because letang is likely gonna miss more time but you cant suspend a hit to the chest with elbows down and no contact with the head. he got the penalty for not playing for the puck, that was all that was needed imo

  10. sportsfreak13 - Mar 1, 2012 at 3:45 PM

    This just in letang has concussion symptoms. Not sure how you get that without contact to the head. I digress though feel better letang.

    • kitshky - Mar 1, 2012 at 5:25 PM

      Wiplash. I’ve had two concussions from hockey without getting hit in the head.

    • elvispocomo - Mar 2, 2012 at 7:58 PM

      There’s also contact with the ice as an option, which is contact to the head not caused directly by the hitter (think Horton after Rome hit him in the SCF).

  11. michiganhockey11 - Mar 1, 2012 at 3:53 PM

    Can we all agree that Milbury is a pompus windbag, that won’t let anyone with a different opinion get a word in edge wise?

    • sportsfreak13 - Mar 1, 2012 at 3:54 PM

      thats as much of a fact as Jeremy roenicks name not being on the cup!

    • mfcohiba - Mar 1, 2012 at 4:38 PM

      Milbury does not need to be speaking, on TV or radio, about hockey.

  12. rsl22 - Mar 1, 2012 at 4:07 PM

    I guarantee Millbury’s comments would be different if it was a Canadian hitting an American or Euro. He is the most blatant Canadian apologist out there league.

    • sabatimus - Mar 1, 2012 at 5:15 PM

      Yep, we remember that “bringing their Eurotrash game” comment last year.

    • sabatimus - Mar 1, 2012 at 5:20 PM

      Actually, I’m wrong: Don Cherry is the biggest Canadian apologist. Milbury wants to be Cherry so bad. Cherry himself is at best irritating to listen to and watch, with his dumb suits and ties that make him look like a bad used car salesman. Or a clown. Same difference, I guess.

      • rsl22 - Mar 1, 2012 at 5:38 PM

        Cherry is definitely a jackass, but I think Millbury might be just a bit worse because A) he’s on TV in the US, not just Canada, and B) Cherry is so over-the-top ridiculous that it’s easier for most people to see him for what he is, whereas Millbury “looks” like a credible person who people can believe.

        On a separate note, I really like Kevin Weekes on NHL Network. I hope he gets more air time in the future.

    • kitshky - Mar 1, 2012 at 5:38 PM

      I have zero time for Milbury and have no idea why any network would employ him as a commentator. He’s not so much a apologist for Canada as he is for the Boston Bruins, and antiquated ways of playing the game. (Which makes his stance on this so obviously a lame attempt to be ‘controversial’)

      And for the record, he’s American… the US can keep him, we don’t want him.

      • rsl22 - Mar 1, 2012 at 5:44 PM

        You just ruined my day…I’m so upset at finding out he’s an American.

  13. rcmylott - Mar 1, 2012 at 4:21 PM

    You can easily get a concussion without contact to the head, especially if you have a history of concussions. He hit him hard in the body and his head snapped back which is plenty of movement to get a concussion or at least “concussion like symptoms”.

    • sabatimus - Mar 1, 2012 at 5:17 PM

      I’m convinced this is how Ryan Miller got concussed when Lucic hit him in the body (‘course, that could also be due to Miller’s flailing around after the hit and doing his best Canadiens impression). And Johnny Boychuck has a history of concussions, and he got another when Chris Neil hit him in the chest the other night. So it’s certainly possible.

  14. brian32556 - Mar 1, 2012 at 6:17 PM


    • kitshky - Mar 1, 2012 at 7:59 PM

      Am I the only one who finds it funny this is written in all caps?

      • stuart17 - Mar 1, 2012 at 8:08 PM

        I have watched the hockey games on NBC this season when the Stars are one of the teams. Is it just me, or do the announcers of the games rag on everything the Stars do? It seems they never say anything good about anyone or anything concerning the team. Here is a team with one of the smallest salaries in NHL that lost it’s supposed number one player last year and is still in the running for a playoff spot. Give these guys a break. A pat on the back for the first year coach and the attitude of the players.

      • brian32556 - Mar 2, 2012 at 9:30 PM

        I guess so.

  15. harryintexas - Mar 1, 2012 at 11:12 PM

    @Stuart17, I thought it was just me thinking that (but I am biased, as I am a Stars fan). The one comment that sticks out in my mind is when the announcer made the comment “did you see the play by Malkin right there?”…No, I missed it because I was watching Ericsson pass the puck to Ryder who put the puck in the net…

  16. malkamania - Mar 1, 2012 at 11:49 PM

    Doesn’t change the fact Nystrom is still guttless. Dishes out a big hit, but won’t stand tall against Asham or Engeland…same with Ott…clearly Dallas is stacked with candy asses. No problem dishing it out…running their mouths…but when it comes time to answer the bell…cowards. It’s a disgrace to the code. Its cool. We will play you guys again…

  17. modcoop - Mar 2, 2012 at 2:43 PM

    The whiplash from the Nystrom hit was more a factor in Letang’ having to leave the game, and now currently suffering from “concussion type symptoms”.

    Could the contact been avoided, probably not, but it could have been less violent yes. I still believe even if Nystrom made contact with Letang on his shoulder, the position Letang was in, could have whipped him around and still caused a brain trauma.

    I think people need to understand one thing:

    These players have obviously been playing for many, many years to become professionals. During their journey to becoming a professional hockey player, they have probably suffered multiple brain injuries, concussions, included.

    The concern about concussions in the NHL is valid, measures should be made to protect the players as “best” they can.

    Hockey is a contact sport, checks are a big part of the game. Players are taught how to hit, and how to take a hit from pee-wee to ECHL/AHL/NHL whatever professional hockey league.

    You can take every precaution to eliminate/reduce head contact, but you can’t stop physics which are created by the force of the hit.

    I suffer from Post Concussion Syndrome (PCS). This condition manifests itself at anytime. PCS can be a result of one brain trauma (concussion) or many traumas to the brain.

    My biggest concern is the amount of brain trauma these players have suffered over the course of their hockey careers. All it takes is one more hit, and all of those previous traumas, can release and cause symptoms which mirror Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

    I am not a doctor, but I can tell you a big reason why Belak/Boogarrd/Rypien died over the summer, was due to PCS. These men tried to treat their PCS with booze and pills. If these players had sought treatment, they would most likely be alive today.

    The bigger issue for the NHL/NHLPA is to stress the importance of seeking treatment and education if a player were suffering from any number of symptoms PCS manifests.

  18. bikey1277 - Mar 2, 2012 at 7:29 PM

    great, Milbury and JR. Moving on………

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