Sharks’ Evander Kane suspended, then rips NHL Player Safety

ST. PAUL, MINN.— San Jose Sharks winger Evander Kane ripped into the NHL’s Department of Player Safety and its leader, George Parros, in a series of tweets Saturday shortly after the league suspended him for three games for elbowing Winnipeg Jets defenceman Neal Pionk in the head.

“The fact the NHL Department of Player Safety headed by George Parros continue to pick and choose who and what they suspend is ridiculous!” Kane tweeted in a statement. “There have been countless incidents of the same nature through this season and past seasons that have gone unsuspended (or) fined. No one person can tell you what is or isn’t a suspension in today’s game, it’s become a complete guess.

“There is a major lack of consistency with the NHL Department of Player Safety. A completely FLAWED system in so many ways. From the suspensions to the appeal rights, it’s baffling to me how we as players agreed to this.

“You can’t continue to give some players a pass and throw the book at others. There has to be an outside third party making these decisions to remove the bias that transpires in this department headed by George Parros. None of it makes any sense.”

Kane also tweeted a video that showed Arizona’s Lawson Crouse elbowing Boston’s Charlie McAvoy in the head, where Lawson was penalized but not fined or suspended. Kane tweeted, “But this doesn’t get anything?? Tell me what this difference is please!”

Kane was suspended at the start of the season for three games for physical abuse of officials, and was therefore considered a repeat offender. On Dec. 4, Kane was fined $5,000, the maximum allowable under the collective bargaining agreement, for elbowing defenceman Radko Gudas in a game with the Washington Capitals.

Kane, the Sharks’ leading scorer this season with 21 goals, will miss Saturday’s game with the Minnesota Wild, Monday’s home game with the Florida Panthers and Thursday’s road game with the New Jersey Devils. Based on his average annual salary of $7 million, Kane will forfeit $112,903.23.

In the third period of Friday’s game between the Sharks and Jets in Winnipeg, Kane was given a two-minute elbowing penalty at the 13:17 mark of the third period.

Pionk was in the corner to the right of the Jets net and had just released the puck behind him when Kane’s right elbow made contact with his head against the glass at the 13:02 mark.

According to the NHL’s explanation video, Kane, after Pionk released the puck, “raises his arm, extends his elbow and drives it with force into Pionk’s head, knocking Pionk to the ice.”

The NHL noted that Kane, “does not keep his arm close to his chest to deliver a full body hit, but instead raises his arm up and away from his core and directly into Pionk’s head. It is also important to note that Kane is in control of this hit at all times.”

The league acknowledged that Pionk slows his momentum to control the puck, but said that it was “Kane’s choice to extend his elbow both up and out significantly, driving it into Pionk’s head. What causes this hit to rise to the level of supplemental discipline is the dangerous extension of the elbow upward and outward, combined with the force of the hit.”

Kane was suspended for three games Oct. 1, a day before the season opener, for physical abuse of officials in a Sept. 29 preseason game with the Vegas Golden Knights. He also forfeited $112,903.23 in salary.

The announcement of Kane’s suspension came shortly after the Sharks disclosed that defenceman Erik Karlsson would miss the rest of the season with a broken thumb in his left hand. Karlsson leads the team with 40 points in 56 games.

The Sharks were already without their top two centres — Logan Couture (fractured left ankle) and Tomas Hertl (torn knee ligaments).

“We’ve done a decent job of battling through that adversity and competing hard and sticking together as a team,” interim coach Bob Boughner said Saturday before the NHL handed out its suspension.

On Dec. 4, Kane was fined $5,000, the maximum allowable under the collective bargaining agreement, for elbowing defenceman Radko Gudas in a game with the Washington Capitals the night before.

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Kane is fourth on the Sharks this season with 37 points in 54 games. He has a team-high 110 penalty minutes this year, and leads all forwards in average time on ice with 19 minutes and 40 seconds per game.

The Sharks entered Saturday in 13th place in the Western Conference standings, 10 points back of the Arizona Coyotes for the second wild-card spot. Their 3-2 victory over the Jets on Friday was their third straight away from home.

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