It was a scary scene in the last minute of Wednesday night’s Game 1 between the Winnipeg Jets and Montreal Canadiens.
As you know by now, Mark Scheifele was suspended four games for charging Habs’ Jake Evans, who was scoring an empty-net goal to cap a 5-3 win. Immediately after giving his team a two-goal lead, though, he got levelled by the Jets’ star forward on a hard, high and unsuspecting hit.
The Jets’ star forward practice with his team ahead of Game 2 tonight even though he’ll watch it from the press box and afterwards, made an official statement on his suspension and his explanation on what happened on the ice on Wednesday night.
“First and foremost, the No.1 thing is Jake Evans’ health. I reached out to a couple of their guys. I pray for a quick and speedy recovery for him and that he’s OK.
“My intention on that play is to negate a goal. There’s no intent, no malice there. My thought process there is to cut him up at that post. . . There’s a minute left in the game, we just scored, it’s a 1-goal game. My only thought in my mind is to prevent a goal.
“For that result to happen hurts me. I have tremendous respect for this league, for the players in this league. The biggest thing that sucks about it is the result. It’s one of those things you have to learn from. I just have to know there’s a plan for everything."
Scheifele maintains that he wanted to prevent a goal and is shocked by the length of his suspension. However, he will not make an appeal for the suspension: he does not want to be a distraction to his team. He accepts the punishment. Head coach Paul Maurice is also surprised, he expected the suspension to be two games.
“I’m preparing for contact. He’s trying to get to that post. I’m trying to get to that post. That’s my only thought in my mind is I want to win a hockey game.
“I think it was pretty excessive. I wasn’t expecting that, I was pretty shocked. But that’s their decision.”
Scheifele got emotional when he was asked about the criticism he’s received for his hit. He cannot believe what his family has been put through.
“I can accept the punishment, the accountability. That’s what you sign up for. The hate that my family has gotten, the bullying, is completely unacceptable. . . I can handle it. To put my family to get that, it hurts me a lot.”
"It's pretty gross to see. My parents are the salt of the Earth. For my parents to get hate like that, it's awful."
While Scheifele can only return if there is a Game 6 in Winnipeg in this series, led 1-0 by the Habs at the moment, he is fully confident he will play again this season and that his teammates can push the series and win it.
"I have full faith in my team that I'll be able to play another game this year."