Maple Leafs forward Mike Brown thinks he made a clean hit on Ed Jovanovski in Phoenix on Thursday night even though it resulted in a three-game suspension for delivering a blindside hit to the head.
”It’s what it is,” Brown said Saturday. ”I can’t complain about anything I got. There’s nothing I can do about it now. Obviously, anything is a surprise to me — whatever games I got — but it’s what they called and I can’t change that.”
Brown is the fourth NHL player to receive a suspension this season under rule 48. Coyotes captain Shane Doan sat out three games in October, San Jose captain Joe Thornton missed two games in November and Islanders winger Matt Martin was banned two games in December.
The league has wrestled with the issue of hits to the head and will likely look at tweaking the new rule when the annual general managers meeting in Florida in March.
There was no penalty called on the play so Brown figured he was in the clear. He never anticipated getting suspended.
”It didn’t cross my mind,” said Brown. ”The refs didn’t make any call and I figured it was just a clean hit. After they reviewed it, they came up with their (ruling). That’s what it is.”
The Coyotes’ defenseman was bent slightly and lunging for the puck when Brown inadvertently delivered a check to his head. Jovanovski didn’t return to the game.
”It was an accident,” Brown said. ”I’m not out to intentionally hurt anyone, especially him. He’s well-respected and there’s no way I would intentionally go and elbow or hit him with a shoulder to the head.
”It was just a physical play, a hockey play and just the heat of the moment.”
The game in Phoenix was the first for Brown after sitting out more than a month with a broken finger. He’s eligible to return Jan. 22 against Washington.
Leafs coach Ron Wilson supports the NHL’s policy on hits to the head.
”The league has a tough job and whether it’s two, three or four (games), you have to agree with what they’re doing,” said Wilson. ”They’re trying to protect vulnerable players from head shots. I don’t think at all that Brownie intended to hit him in the head.
”It was just unfortunate. When you’re going to be physical and the other player is a little unaware, he ran into his head. It was simple.”