The 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs were supposed to be a redemption tour for the Winnipeg Jets’ top centreman Mark Scheifele. After being forced out of the opening game of last season’s play-in tournament by way of injury, the 28-year-old was set to make up for lost time in this year’s playoffs.
That thought came crashing down as the Kitchener, ON. product was handed a four-game ban from the NHL’s Department of Player Safety following a check on Montreal’s Jake Evans with less than one minute left in Game 1 of the team’s second-round series with the Canadiens.
Speaking to the media a few days after the suspension was handed out, Scheifele clearly expressed his frustration with the outcome of the suspension hearing, as well as his hopes that Evans would recover well from the damage inflicted.
After seeing his team lose its next three games and be eliminated from the postseason, Scheifele will now have to miss one regular season game – the 2021-22 season-opener – this coming fall.
“It’s not fun. It’s definitely not a great feeling,” Scheifele said on locker cleanout day. “You feel pretty helpless when your team is out there battling and you’re watching from the stands. It’s not a great feeling… Obviously I had my chance to speak my piece in the hearing. I don’t know how much was actually absorbed by them. It’s a hard one. I think at the end of the day, you regret the outcome of it. I said that over and over. You never want to see a guy hurt. And I’m a guy that respects this game and respects players. I never want to see a guy hurt no matter what it is.”
Suspended as a result of his five-minute charging major and game misconduct, Scheifele earlier alluded to his lack of body check, his minimal penalty minutes and overall physical track record as what he thought should play a factor in the decision made by the NHL.
“Obviously, it’s crushing that my season was ended and I wasn’t able to play in this series,” Scheifele added. “I thought I was going to be tried to shut down by Phillip Danault, and it was the Department of Player Safety that shut me down. That definitely sucks. But that’s life.”
Again, opting to describe the play, Scheifele said he is not going to dwell on the hit or spend any more time “crying about it” in the coming days, but rather move on.
“At the end of the day, I was trying to negate a goal,” he said. “I’m coming back on the back check to prevent a goal and to try and go the other way. I’ve played 6-on-5 my entire life. I’m out there to score goals, I’m not out there to hit guys. I’m trying to prevent a goal and trying to win a game. So I would have loved an answer from them of what would have been a better thing to do. I’ve replayed the thing over and over again in my mind, and the only real thing is if I gave up on my teammates on that play and just didn’t backcheck. It’s over and done with.”
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Saying his plan is to learn from the hit and continue putting in his hard work over the summer, Scheifele expects to be a full go come Game 2 of the 2021-22 season, despite his deeper inclinations on the topic at hand.
“I still believe it was excessive,” he said of the penalty handed down. “They knocked me out of the series. I don’t even get a chance to play with my teammates and battle with my teammates in the series. For a guy with a clean record…I’m just going to stop talking before I get fined or something like that, so I’ll leave it as it is.”