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Suspension Coming for UAA's Portwood?

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After reviewing the play, Minnesota head coach Don Lucia thinks the WCHA should take further disciplinary action on Alaska-Anchorage's Jade Portwood, for a hit that left Minnestoa defenseman Nick Leddy with a broken jaw.

It's a tough call. After watching the hit, and seeing this photo that the Star-Trib capture, I pretty much agree with Lucia. There's no doubt that the hit deserves a penalty. But a suspension? That's a little tougher to pull the trigger on.

I know a lot of people are going to say it's a legal hit and not even worth talking about. Yes, Portwood does keep his elbows down and doesn't charge Leddy. The problem is that he also quite clearly hits Leddy in the head, which is a penalty according to the rulebook. It's clearly an infraction, but one worthy of a suspension? I think everyone can agree that Portwood is trying to throw a legal check, and circumstance turned it into something horrible. That doesn't excuse his hit, but it's worth taking into consideration.

This hit also comes at a contentious time in the world hockey. Hits to the head have never been treated like a big deal, and people are finally starting to realize that they are a very big deal. Players have gotten bigger and stronger, and at the same time, more is being learned about concussions and the effects of multiple concussions. On a nearly weekly basis, it seems like there is a debate every week over a hit to the head that left a player unconscious or seriously injured, and whether the hit deserved a suspension.

I'm all in favor of hits to the head being called more often. It's incredibly dangerous and needs to be eliminated from the game as quickly as possible. The WCHA's interest in player safety has always been more reactive than proactive, and this might be the type of incident it takes for them to react. But it's also not fair to make Portwood the scapegoat for the issue of the day.

The bottom line to me is that even if the hit had been called correctly, I don't think that call would have involved a game disqualification, so suspending Portwood doesn't make a lot of sense. But it's definitely something officials should keep a closer eye on and call much tighter in the future.