Philadelphia Flyers winger Chris VandeVelde hasn’t found himself in the penalty box too often during his NHL career and has only 77 penalty minutes in 187 big league games. But the well-disciplined 29-year-old could be facing suspension after delivering one errant elbow.
VandeVelde was giving chase to Jonathan Toews in the final minute of play in the first frame of Wednesday’s game and attempted to deliver a hit to the Blackhawks’ captain. As Toews moved the puck on, VandeVelde followed through with his check but led with an elbow that caught Toews on the chin. Toews immediately stumbled, but was able to make his way to the bench.
The referees whistled VandeVelde for an elbowing minor, and Toews didn’t see the ice in the final 30 seconds of the period:
Following the game, the Chicago Sun-Times’ Mark Lazerus reported the NHL’s Department of Player Safety was taking a closer look at the elbow delivered by VandeVelde and that supplemental discipline could be on its way. Thursday afternoon the DOPS announced VandeVelde would indeed have a hearing Friday for the elbow.
One concern stemming from the hit is the health of Toews, who has dealt with concussion issues before. In October 2009, Toews suffered a concussion and missed six games before returning, and he missed another 22 games after suffering a concussion in February 2012. He returned in time for the post-season.
Following the blow to the head, Toews remained on the bench, but he didn’t see the ice before first intermission. If Toews underwent concussion protocol, it may have been during intermission, but there hasn’t been a report of him undergoing testing. Toews played a combined 12:09 in the final two periods and scored early in the second frame.
VandeVelde has never been fined or suspended by the league before, so this would be a first for him. He has however been handed a three-game ban in the AHL for an illegal check to the head, but that infraction came all the way back in December 2012. All of this is to say he doesn’t really have a reputation for dangerous or potentially injurious hits. VandeVelde has suited up in every game for Philadelphia this season and has scored two goals and 13 points while averaging nearly 14 minutes of ice time per game.
The Flyers will be back in action Saturday afternoon against the Pittsburgh Penguins. VandeVelde will know his fate before that contest.
UPDATE: The Department of Player Safety announced Friday VandeVelde has been suspended two games for his elbow on Toews.
"VandeVelde is in control of this play from the start," said Patrick Burke, director of the DOPS. "This is not a high speed play in which the speed or sudden movement of both players dramatically increase the force or otherwise alter the outcome of the hit."
Burke added that the hit was not predatory, but a reckless play by VandeVelde that was deemed worthy of a two-game ban. VandeVelde won't be able to return to the Flyers' lineup until Tuesday against the Columbus Blue Jackets.