TORONTO – When Maple Leafs forward Mike Brown levelled Ed Jovanovski in Phoenix on Thursday night, the last person he expected to hear from was Colin Campbell.
But after having a hearing with the NHL disciplinarian and subsequently being suspended three games, he was willing to accept the punishment.
“It’s what it is,” Brown said Saturday morning. “I can’t complain about anything I got. There’s nothing I can do about it now. Obviously, anything is a surprise to me—whatever games I got—but it’s what they called and I can’t change that.”
Brown is the fourth NHL player to receive a suspension this season under rule 48 for delivering a blindside hit to the head. Coyotes captain Shane Doan sat out three games in October, San Jose captain Joe Thornton missed two games in November and Islanders winger Matt Martin was banned two games in December.
The league has wrestled with the issue of hits to the head for a couple of seasons and will likely look at tweaking the new rule when the general managers hold their annual meeting in Florida in March.
Brown’s hit on Jovanovski was a textbook example of what the league doesn’t want. The Coyotes defenceman was bent slightly and lunging for the puck when Brown inadvertently delivered a check to his head. Jovanovski didn’t return to the game.
“It was an accident,” said Brown. “I’m not out to intentionally hurt anyone, especially him. He’s well-respected and there’s no way I would intentionally go and elbow or hit him with a shoulder to the head.
“It was just a physical play, a hockey play and just the heat of the moment.”
The game in Phoenix was the first for Brown after sitting out more than a month with a broken finger. He’s eligible to return Jan. 22 against Washington.
Leafs coach Ron Wilson supports the NHL’s policy on hits to the head.
“The league has a tough job and whether it’s two, three or four (games), you have to agree with what they’re doing,” said Wilson. “They’re trying to protect vulnerable players from headshots. I don’t think at all that Brownie intended to hit him in the head.
“It was just unfortunate. When you’re going to be physical and the other player is a little unaware, he ran into his head. It was simple.”
There was no penalty called on the play so Brown figured he was in the clear. He never anticipated getting suspended.
“It didn’t cross my mind,” said Brown. “The refs didn’t make any call and I figured it was just a clean hit. After they reviewed it, they came up with their (ruling). That’s what it is.”