Belak to miss rest of regular season

Updated: March 22, 2004, 9:35 PM ET
Associated Press

TORONTO -- The NHL suspended Wade Belak eight games for his two-handed chop to the face of Colorado defenseman Ossi Vaananen.

The Maple Leafs defenseman will be out for Toronto's remaining six regular-season games and the club's first two postseason games.

Belak slashed Vaananen on Saturday night and was given a match penalty for attempt to injure. He met with Colin Campbell at the league's office in Toronto on Monday before the NHL disciplinarian handed down his decision.

"It was a little severe I think," Belak said. "I wasn't expecting to walk away with less than three [games], but I thought no more than five. Getting six plus two, it's kind of harsh."

Belak is a repeat offender, having received a two-game suspension in November 2002 when he elbowed Washington defenseman Brendan Witt in the head.

The suspension will cost Belak $67,682.94 in forfeited salary.

"Mr. Belak used his stick in a careless, dangerous and unacceptable manner," Campbell said in a statement. "Players must be responsible for their sticks at all times, and blows with the stick to the head area will not be tolerated."

Six-foot-5, 221-pound Belak has one goal, one assist and 109 penalty minutes in 34 games this season, his fourth with the Leafs. A career enforcer, he has seven goals, 15 assists and 811 penalty minutes in 275 career NHL games.

The suspension came one day before Avalanche forward Steve Moore was expected to be released from a Denver hospital, just two weeks after his neck was broken by Vancouver's Todd Bertuzzi.

Moore also suffered a concussion and deep lacerations when Bertuzzi hit him from behind and drove him into the ice during a March 8 game in Vancouver. Bertuzzi was suspended for the rest of the regular season and the playoffs, at least.

"I think the timing of it never gave me a fair chance," Belak said. "Being in Toronto playing in a Saturday night game in front of all the media, I didn't have a chance. They pretty much made up their mind about what was going to happen to me that night.

"I was off-balance. We need to be responsible for our sticks, I understand that part, but in no way was I trying to hurt him. Comparing me to Bertuzzi is kind of unfair."


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press