RALEIGH, N.C. — Carolina Hurricanes forward Scott Walker was fined US$2,500 by the NHL but escaped suspension Monday for throwing a punch that may have broken a bone in Boston defenseman Aaron Ward’s face.
Hurricanes general manager Jim Rutherford said the automatic suspension given to Walker was rescinded during a hearing with league disciplinarian Colin Campbell. It was ruled the hit was not a “sucker punch.”
“Based on what was said on the ice as I was dropping my gloves, it was my understanding that I was engaged in an altercation,” Walker said in a statement issued by the team.
Tempers flared in the final minutes of Boston’s 4-0 victory Sunday in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals when Ward and Carolina’s Matt Cullen began shoving in front of the Bruins’ net. Walker skated in and hit Ward with a right cross that knocked the defenceman to the ice, and was given a misconduct, fighting major and instigator penalty with 2:47 remaining.
Boston coach Claude Julien said after the game that team doctors feared Ward had a broken orbital bone. He was being re-evaluated Monday.
“In reviewing what I saw, I just didn’t like what happened. . . . I just don’t think there was any need for that,” Julien said after practice in Wilmington, Mass. “He sucker-punched him once coming into the scrum when (Ward) was involved with another player. And then he dropped his gloves and sucker-punched him.
“I don’t care what people say about, ‘Ward should’ve protected himself.’ He had no intention of getting involved,” he added. “We asked our guys to stay composed and not fall into that trap, and he just did that. A guy with Walker’s experience should know better than to sucker-punch a guy.”