Minnesota Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said it was "ridiculous" that Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Seth Jones wasn't forced to miss the team's game on Tuesday night, having pulled out of the All-Star Game with an illness.
Jones was named to the 2018 NHL All-Star Game in Tampa, Florida, by the NHL's Department of Hockey Operations, representing the Blue Jackets as a member of the Metropolitan Division. The NHL later announced he would miss the All-Star Game because of illness, and he was replaced by teammate Zach Werenski, also a defenseman.
"I think it's ridiculous. It's wrong. I don't know how it can be justified. The rule states that if you miss the All-Star Game, no matter what the reason,is that you miss the next game or you missed the previous game. He played the previous game. He should be missing this game," said Boudreau, whose Wild are in Columbus to face the Blue Jackets. "I don't understand it. For now, for me, there's a gray area in this rule, forever and ever, unless they get written doctor's reports from everybody now."
In 2008, commissioner Gary Bettman pushed for a rule that mandated that any player who pulled out of an All-Star Game appearance because of injury or illness had to miss the regular-season game immediately following it, unless they already missed the game immediately preceding it. Bettman felt that too many players were skipping the NHL All-Star Game for flimsy reasons in order to rest, so the rule was meant to force better participation.
It's not a formal suspension by the NHL but a mandated one, meaning that the players aren't docked pay. Since that rule was adopted, star players such as Sidney Crosby Alex Ovechkin, Jonathan Toews, Nicklas Lidstrom and Pavel Datsyuk were forced to miss a game for skipping the All-Star weekend.
Boudreau cited the one-game suspension for Toews of the Chicago Blackhawks in 2016 as precedent, as he was forced to miss the team's next game against the Colorado Avalanche after missing the All-Star Game with an illness. It was a controversial call by the league at the time -- Toews was pulled in the third period of his last game before the All-Star break -- and deputy commissioner Bill Daly said that "whether the situation warrants another look and possible change to the rules will be evaluated and decided at a later time."
Has the NHL changed its All-Star Game policy with regard to illness? Daly said no.
"No change in policy," Daly told ESPN in an email. "Seth wanted to travel to Tampa to participate in the events -- his family was already there -- and we told him to stay home because of the nature of his condition and our concern for the health of others."
What makes this situation unique, according to Daly, is that Jones wanted to participate in the All-Star Game but was kept away by the NHL, rather than pulling out of his responsibilities for the event.
"We created his 'non-appearance,' not him," Daly said.