Boston Bruins

You wouldn’t expect NHL players to agree with the league when they get suspended. But apparently, the Bruins’ David Backes is as confused as anyone by his three-game ban.

Backes will sit out on Thursday and the following two games as the B’s take on the Philadelphia Flyers at TD Garden, after the league handed him a three-game suspension for a late hit on the Detroit Red Wings’ Frans Nielsen. Backes had a chance after practice to respond to the league’s surprising (frankly, baffling) decision to suspend him three games for the first major offense of his career.

Ever the stand-up guy, Backes expressed remorse for causing an injury to Nielsen on the play – which, according to the league’s video explanation, was a big factor in the resulting suspension. But he also acknowledged what the league did, that he tried to avoid making significant contact before the hit.

“First and foremost, the fact Frans Nielsen is hurt sucks,” said Backes. “I wasn’t intending to hurt him. I hope he has a quick and full recovery and he’s back on the ice soon. That’s certainly an unintended consequence to the play. The play was kind of an awkward, one-off kind of play where he’s coming back in the zone receiving a puck, sees me coming, I’m going to finish a hit and trying to get around him, and by the end trying to abort the whole thing altogether, just avoid it all.”

Backes can’t appeal the suspension, because league rules only allow that for bans of six or more games. So he just has to accept it and move on.

“The decision’s the decision,” said Backes. “That’s the way that the process is, currently, in the collective bargaining agreement. They come out with it, we have a hearing on the phone, and the decision’s the decision and you swallow it.”

David Backes looks on for the Boston Bruins against the Winnipeg Jets at TD Garden on December 21, 2017 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

“I Don’t Know How Effective That Is”

But despite all that, Backes explained in so many words that he doesn’t get the decision to suspend him for three games, despite the league’s own admission that he was trying to avoid the hit and that his lack of a history was considered.

“I think my agent did all the numbers. I’ve got 2,400 hits in this league over 12 seasons and never even had a hearing, let alone a fine, let alone a suspension,” said Backes – who has 2,394 career hits, to be exact. “If we’re trying to teach a lesson, or critique one out of 2,400 hits, that I was trying to really avoid – and that’s been acknowledged as well – I don’t know how effective that is. That’s a small little decimal if you do the division.

“But that’s where we’re at. It’s the situation we’re in. It’s the world we live in, as the league likes to say a lot. So we’ll have to move forward with whats gone on.”

The NHL sent a direct, albeit inconsistent, message with the Backes suspension: hits to any part of the head will not be tolerated, especially if you injure the guy in the process, and your prior history (or lack thereof) doesn’t matter much. But clearly, Backes isn’t going to change the way he plays just because the league is making him sit for three games. Not that he has to.

— By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com

Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at matthew.dolloff@bbgi.com.