NHL superstars have had enough. It started with Edmonton Oilers’ forward Connor McDavid elbowing Montreal Canadiens forward Jesperi Kotkaniemi on Tuesday evening. The next night it was Nathan MacKinnon of the Colorado Avalanche throwing a helmet at Arizona Coyotes’ forward Conor Garland.
The incident occurred late in the third period of the game between the Coyotes and Avalanche at Ball Arena on Thursday. The Avalanche were leading 8-3 at the time and things turned feisty with the clock winding down.
With five minutes remaining in the final frame, MacKinnon and Garland got into a confrontation in the corner and the Avalanche superstar ended up ripping off Garland’s helmet before the Coyotes forward fell to the ground.
MacKinnon was given a four-minute penalty for roughing and assessed a 10-minute misconduct after he picked up Garland’s helmet off the ground and threw it back at the Arizona forward.
Garland had his eyes transfixed on a battle between Gabriel Landeskog and Ilya Lyubushkin at the time, which led to him having an unexpected reaction to the helmet throw. Luckily, the helmet caught the 5′ 10″ Garland in the chest area and not the head.
Another look at MacKinnon helmet toss that got him a misconduct pic.twitter.com/Q2XOvJo8yL
— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) April 1, 2021
It’s unclear if MacKinnon will face any supplementary discipline by the NHL for his actions, but some fans are calling for a suspension. Considering the toss didn’t cause any physical damage to Garland, the overwhelming response has been that it was a fairly harmless move that should result in a fine at most.
Just impeccable Wii Sports bowling form from Nathan MacKinnon.
— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) April 1, 2021
— DNVR Sports (@DNVR_Sports) April 1, 2021
Shouldn't have been standing there! https://t.co/K3fGQechjJ
— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) April 1, 2021
The Coyotes coaching staff wasn’t too happy with what transpired with MacKinnon. “I didn’t know it was just 10 minutes for throwing a helmet,” said Arizona head coach Rick Tocchet in his post-game presser.
A helmet incident in professional sports immediately brought back memories of the Myles Garrett incident in the NFL back in 2019. Garrett, a defensive end for the Cleveland Browns, was suspended indefinitely after smacking Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph in the head with his own helmet during a brawl.
The MacKinnon incident obviously isn’t as severe as what happened with Garrett, but it’s a rare instance in which an athlete used what they wear on their head for protection as a weapon.
Another incident similar to MacKinnon’s was in the MLB back in 2017 when Bryce Harper, outfielder for the Washington Nationals, threw his helmet at San Francisco Giants pitcher Hunter Strickland, after being hit with a pitch. The throw was way off, but the intention remains the same.
MacKinnon is one of the NHL’s best players and currently sits ninth in the NHL scoring race with 40 points through 33 games. Despite being relied on for his elite offensive talent, the Nova Scotia native isn’t afraid to stick up for himself and his teammates. In the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, MacKinnon manhandled Arizona forward Christian Fischer after Lawson Crouse laid out prized rookie blueliner Cale Makar.
After winning the Lady Byng trophy in 2020 as the NHL’s most sportsmanlike player, it’s safe to say a repeat is off the table for MacKinnon in 2021.