WINNIPEG, Manitoba (AP) — Winnipeg Jets star Mark Schiefele is willing to accept his four-game suspension for his crushing blow that sent Montreal’s Jake Evans off the ice on a stretcher.
What’s not acceptable, he says, is the abuse directed at his family.
“The bullying that they’ve gotten, online, phone calls. It’s pretty gross to see,” Schiefele, his voice catching, said during a video call Friday. “My parents are the salt of the earth. For my parents to get hate like that, and my brother and sister, it’s awful.
“I can handle it, I’m a grown man. I’ve accepted that and I can be held accountable for that. But for my family to get that, it hurts me a lot.”
Evans was left sprawled on the ice in the final minute of Montreal’s 5-3 win Wednesday night in a second-round series opener. Scheifele called the sanction “excessive” but won’t appeal.
“I don’t want to be a distraction anymore. This has lingered on long enough,” he said before the Jets hosted the Canadiens in Game 2 on Friday.
“The stakes are so high at this point. I just want to be there cheering on my teammates. … From this point on, it’s all about the Winnipeg Jets. It’s not about me, it’s not about anything like that. It’s about the Winnipeg Jets and the guys in that room who are going to be battling for our team.”
Jets coach Paul Maurice was expecting a two-game ban.
“I think four is excessive,” he said. “The Department of Player Safety has every right, and they’re needed in their role, to set precedent for hits, especially when there’s an injury involved. So they have that right. I don’t agree with it, but it’s set now and that’s where the National Hockey League game goes going forward. And we’ll learn from it and move on.”
Scheifele’s hit came as Evans wrapped a shot into an Winnipeg net with 57 seconds left. The 6-foot-3, 207-pound Scheifele leveled Evans at the goal line. The Canadiens forward flew through the air, striking his head on the ice. He lay still for several moments while trainers and medical staff tended to him.
Scheifele drew a charging major and a game misconduct. On Friday, he said he was just trying to stop Evans from scoring.
“My intention on that play is to try to negate a goal,” he said. “There’s no intent, there’s no malice there. I don’t go in with a frame of mind of injuring a hockey player. … I just hope he’s OK. I hope for a speedy recovery and I’m praying for him.”
Evans was not hospitalized but Montreal’s interim coach Dominique Ducharme has said he has a concussion. Ducharme added on Friday that Evans is feeling “a little bit better.”
Montreal captain Shea Webber declined to comment on the suspension.
“We’re done talking about the hit,” he said. “We’re missing a player; they’re missing a player.”
Losing Scheifele creates a big loss for the Jets. The 28-year-old was their leading scorer in the regular season with 63 points (21 goals, 42 assists). He has five more (two goals, three assists) in five playoff appearances this year.
“We’re paying a huge price, he’s paying a huge price, so that part hurts,” Maurice said. “Knowing Mark, he’ll be on the ice every day getting better, trying to get better and get ready for his next playoff game.”
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