Wings' Witkowski, Blashill agree: Punishment didn’t fit the crime

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Linesman Scott Driscoll (68) pulls the Detroit Red Wings' Luke Witkowski away from the Calgary Flames' Travis Hamonic during the third period Wednesday night.

Detroit – Luke Witkowski spent the Detroit Red Wings’ off-day Thursday hunting.

Considering Witkowski was slapped with a 10-game suspension by the NHL Thursday afternoon – he was docked 10 games pay also – for his part in the brawl against Calgary the night before, hunting proved beneficial.

Witkowski did kill a buck during his time in the woods.

“With that fine, I need food on the table,” Witkowski said with a smile after Friday’s morning skate. “It was tough (to hear about the suspension). But I’m not going to sit here and sulk.”

Witkowski fought Calgary’s Brett Kulak, was escorted to the penalty box then told to head to the locker room, but bolted back toward the ice when Calgary’s Matthew Tkachuk speared Witkowski on the back of the legs.

It’s that action, going back on the ice after being told by the referee to head to the locker room, that is forbidden by the league.

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Section 70.6 of the NHL Rulebook states: “Any player who has been ordered to the dressing room by the officials and returns to his bench or to the ice surface for any reason before the appropriate time shall be assessed a game misconduct and shall be suspended automatically without pay for the next ten (10) regular League and/or Play-off games.”

Witkowski was unaware of the rule.

“It’s unfortunate,” said Witkowski, who is eligible to return Dec. 11 against Florida. “I didn’t know that was a rule. Obviously now I known. Lesson learned, I guess. Move on from here.”

What left Witkowski and coach Jeff Blashill scratching their heads was the length of the suspension.

Both seemed to be fine with the idea of some sort of punishment, but the length of the suspension seemed egregious to them.

“Nobody wants to sit out 10 games,” Witkowski said. “I don’t know what I did should get 10 games, but that’s the rule. It’s not going to change. Life goes on.”

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Blashill said several times “the punishment didn’t fit the crime.” He added that the way the rule is written, it doesn’t give the league “any ability to apply judgment because it’s so black and white.

“Witter (Witkowski) goes back on the ice because he gets hit on the leg by one of their players. That’s who initiated it, otherwise, it’s over. Once he (Witkowski) goes back on, he could have made it way worse and he chose not to.”

Blashill believes there will be many suspensions around the NHL this season for fewer games, but for far dirtier actions.

“You’ll go through the season and you’ll see a lot of things done in a year that get way less games, and there’s going to be guys who elbow people in the head, guys who use their stick as a weapon, and they’ll get less games – and their intent to injure is way greater,” Blashill said.  “I hope there’s punishment for starting the thing, which is what that player (Tkachuk) did, but it’s unfortunate the rule is so black and white that I don’t think they’re at all allowed an opportunity to apply a judgment.”

The Red Wings recalled defenseman Brian Lashoff from Grand Rapids to fill in, what with Witkowski not available on defense and Trevor Daley (ribs) a game-time decision.