The Tri-City Americans will be without one of their top scorers until Nov. 13 as Brendan Shinnimin serves out the remainder of his Western Hockey League-imposed suspension of 12 games for a checking-from-behind penalty last Wednesday against Saskatoon's Josh Nicholls.
"The most important thing is the league has to protect the safety of the players," said Americans general manager Bob Tory, who is in Vancouver, British Columbia, for league meetings. "We respect their decision, and we and Brendan will move forward. Brendan will be the first to admit he crossed the line. We hope our fans and everyone will support Brendan through this."
Shinnimin will get credit for time served after sitting out the last three games of Tri-City's six-game trip through the East Division. The Americans finish their road swing tonight at Swift Current.
The hit in question came with 1:56 left in the third period as Shinnimin leveled Nicholls into the boards behind Tri-City goaltender Drew Owsley. Shinnimin was given a major penalty (boarding) and a game misconduct.
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Cory Wolfe of the Saskatoon StarPhoenix reported Nicholls will "miss at least a week with a concussion and bruised back."
It took the league six days to hand down its decision.
"It was a very, very dangerous hit, and I think all parties are pleased that the opponent (Nicholls) was not seriously injured on the play," said Rick Doerksen, the WHL's vice president of hockey and league disciplinarian, who announced the suspension Tuesday. "We keep track of each player's checking-from-behind penalties. He had a hit on a previous shift that should have been penalized and wasn't, but the length of the suspension was a result of this particular hit."
With concerns for concussions and other injuries, the WHL has had all 22 teams watch a video on proper checking techniques.
"They all watch a video, and there is a segment where I tell the players about the dangerous hits," Doerksen said. "The captain of the team signs off that all members of the team have watched and understood the video and what we are trying to convey.
"We tell the players we want hitting in the game, but we don't want hitting from behind," Doerksen continued. "We want them to play in a safe environment."
Tory said he supports the league's stand on player safety.
"We need to first and foremost protect the safety of the players," Tory said. "You are responsible for your actions on and off the ice, and we expect no less from our players. The league is here to make sure they are safe when they play."
The 12-game suspension is the longest handed down by Doerksen in the last four years.
Last season, Tri-City's Todd Kennedy was given a seven-game suspension for a charging major against Portland on Feb. 23.
During the 2008-09 season, Spokane's Ryan Letts was given a 10-game suspension for running Tri-City goalie Chet Pickard on Feb. 28, 2009.