Nolan suspended for 11 games
Updated: Friday February 09, 2001 10:08 PM
SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) -- The NHL followed up Owen Nolan's big hit on Grant Marshall with a heavy blow of its own.
Nolan, the Sharks' captain and second-leading scorer, was suspended for 11 games on Friday for a hit earlier this month that sent Dallas forward Marshall to a hospital with a concussion.
The severity of the suspension stunned and enraged the Pacific Division-leading Sharks, who will be without Nolan and injured center Vincent Damphousse -- two-thirds of San Jose's top line earlier in the season -- for nearly three critical late-season weeks if Nolan's suspension isn't shortened on appeal.
"Owen is our best player, and I don't think it's right how he has been turned into a villain," Sharks GM Dean Lombardi said. "We all know it was a very hard, very physical hit, and you can't justify what he did. But to say this is revenge, I don't think so. The issue here is appropriate punishment."
Nolan, who has a reputation for physical two-way play but had never been suspended in 10 NHL seasons, was suspended indefinitely on Tuesday. He already has missed two games, and with the Sharks' light February schedule, he won't be eligible to return to the lineup until March 1.
"The hit occurred away from the play against an unsuspecting opponent about to leave the ice on a line change," said Colin Campbell, the NHL's director of hockey operations. "While not a stick foul, it was an intentional blow to the head and this type of play is unacceptable."
Nolan was given a 10-minute match penalty for elbowing Marshall in the neck with five seconds remaining in the first period of the Stars' 4-2 victory at San Jose on Feb. 1. Marshall, who struck his head on the ice when he went down, was removed on a stretcher and hospitalized overnight.
Marshall received a major penalty earlier in the period for a blindside boarding hit on Nolan, who later said he hit Marshall out of anger and called the play "stupid."
Nolan missed the entire preseason and played just three games in the season's first six weeks because of a contract holdout and extra conditioning time. Still, he has 18 goals and 40 points in 38 games. He will lose $335,294 of his $4.75 million salary during the suspension.
Few players mean more to their team than Nolan, who plays on San Jose's top line and its first power-play unit. His status as the Sharks' emotional leader is unquestioned, with most of the Sharks' young players looking to their captain for direction.
Lombardi said Campbell's punishment was wildly excessive and not consistent with other suspensions recently assessed. Among others, he cited recent suspensions given to Billy Tibbetts (four games) and Gino Odjick (eight games) for offenses Lombardi felt were worse than Nolan's hit near the Stars' bench.
In addition, the Sharks were angered earlier this year when Edmonton captain Doug Weight incurred 39 penalty minutes after a cheap shot on San Jose defenseman Bryan Marchment. Weight wasn't suspended for the incident, in which he punched Marchment several times while the defenseman was down on the ice.
Lombardi said Nolan testified in his disciplinary hearing in Calgary on Thursday that he made eye contact with Marshall before the hit.
"[Nolan] takes one stride, and he's heading for the bench, not Marshall," Lombardi said. "And if you look at it, Marshall is curling in, going to the neutral zone, and as Nolan is gliding toward the bench, Marshall turns back into him to go toward the bench. This isn't stalking. This guy turns into his lane."
Lombardi attributed much of the uproar over the hit to the fact that Nolan's disciplinary hearing was postponed because of the All-Star game, giving ample time for the hit to be replayed countless times on highlight shows.
In addition, Lombardi noted that Marshall was playing with his chin strap unbuckled, which made his tumble to the ice look worse than it was.
"We just want a fair ruling, and I don't think this was
[fair]," Lombardi said.