Through 11 NHL seasons and more than 610 career games, Mike Rupp had never been fined or suspended by the league before Friday’s suspension for a "late, illegal check to the head" in Thursday’s Minnesota Wild win.
Rupp believes the outcomes of a long NHL career outweigh what happened on Thursday when he hit St. Louis Blues forward T.J. Oshie, with Rupp’s left shoulder making contact with Oshie’s head and knocking Oshie out of the game.
"I don’t like that there’s questions of marking a player or head hunting," Rupp said Saturday of cricitism of his hit. "It’s never been the case for me. I’ve been a guy that’s gone out and stirred things up emotionally in games, but I’ve never taken a shot at a player and I would never start to do that now. It’s just one that got away from me a bit there and I’ll take responsibility for that."
Rupp was suspended for four games by the league on Friday while Oshie never returned to Thursday’s game and was held out of St. Louis’ game at Dallas on Friday night.
The league determined that Rupp was "in control of this check. If he wants to attempt to hit Oshie, he must do so within the allowable timeframe and in a legal manner. He does neither," the league announced in its suspension video by the Department of Player Safety.
During Minnesota’s 4-2 win, Oshie carried the puck around to the blue line and made a pass before turning in Rupp’s direction. Rupp put his shoulder into Oshie’s chin. Oshie was knocked down and was on the ice for several minutes before skating off under his own power.
"My intent there is to finish my hit there and not allow the puck to go in the middle, or the player, so there’s zero intent on the outcome," Rupp said. "I feel awful for that. I know coming around the circle he looked up and I felt like he saw me and his D-man right there. I don’t want to say we made eye contact. I don’t think there was eye contact but he looked up to kind of see what play was around him and then he looked down at the puck and got in the middle."
Rupp felt contact with Oshie’s chest and shoulder, but knows there was contact with the head, too, after watching video of the play.
"I know what I felt on the ice was his chest and his shoulder," Rupp said. "I didn’t feel his head, but obviously I’m not naive enough to know when I watch the video there was some head contact there, but I can tell you definitely the first point of contact was a shoulder and chest. I think it’s a matter of me being 6-5 and it’s a hit that got away from me. I’ll take responsibility for that."
Rupp said the fact he’d never been suspended or fined before came up in his suspension call with league officials.
"You want to be known as a guy who plays the game the right way," Rupp said. "I think that, even on our call and talking to the league, they made note of saying that a guy that’s been in the league as long as I have and the role that I have, it’s unheard of that I haven’t had, nothing’s been a question for me in my career."