Why athletes decide it’s a good idea to wear helmets to throw a headbutt I’ll never understand. It only risks concussions to both temples involved. Darnell Nurse’s fall on Los Angeles Kings defenseman Phillip Danault was dirty and downright idiotic. It would cost the Edmonton Oilers assistant captain several playoff games and potentially end his season.
The NHL Division of Player Safety announced Wednesday morning a hearing for Nurse that could result in a suspension, fine, or both. The clash of heads occurred during the second period of Game 5 of the Western Conference first round postseason matchup between the teams. The Kings won 3-2 Tuesday night with Game 6 taking place Thursday night in Los Angeles.
Nurse’s headshot lacked the force of Zinedine Zidane’s infamous blunder against Italy in the 2006 FIFA World Cup final, which ended his international career with a red card. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound nurse was on the penalty shootout when play was stopped. Nurse turned and delivered the headbutt, leaving him and Danault tangled for a few seconds before being separated.
Nurse was previously suspended by the NHL for three games in 2016 for “serving as an attacker” in an altercation with former Shark Roman Polak. Nurse is considered an integral member of the Oilers and earns $9.25 million annually under an eight-year renewal he signed last August. Nurse has played nearly 19 minutes in every playoff game so far. Neither player was injured in the headbutt.
The NHL DoPS has not hesitated in previous cases when egregious behavior has occurred, such as Tom Wilson’s high hit on former penguin Zach Aston-Reese in the second round of the 2018 playoffs. The Player Safety Department also issued an eight-game suspension on Nazem Kadri last postseason for hitting Blues defenseman Justin Faulk in the head. Kadri was a repeat offender with three post-season suspensions and sixth overall in his pro career.
Nurse’s incoming suspension puts even more pressure on Leon Draisaitl, Connor McDavid and the rest of Edmonton’s offense. The Oilers’ top duo united for 233 points in the regular season. It took Edmonton more than the two to do damage in the playoffs, and it hasn’t happened consistently in five postseason games, save for five goals from Evander Kane. Nurse is expected to make a decision by the end of Wednesday and should earn at least a two-game suspension for the unnecessarily aggressive headbutt. I would be shocked if the NHL allowed him to play in another game in this series.