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Kings' Johnson to Pay the Price for Hit to Head

Hockey: Team enforcer, who is suspended indefinitely, could face lengthy and expensive punishment for punching Rangers' Beukeboom from behind.

November 21, 1998|JIM HODGES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Retribution is probably going to be expensive for King winger Matt Johnson.

On Friday, the NHL suspended Johnson indefinitely, at least for tonight's game against Chicago at the Great Western Forum, for hitting the Rangers' Jeff Beukeboom in the back of the head. But indications are the suspension is only the beginning of the punishment that could be meted out by Colin Campbell, the league's director of operations.

He has summoned Johnson and Dave Taylor, King vice president and general manager, to a hearing Monday in New York.

"What I did was probably wrong," Johnson said. "But I felt I had to do something, and what I did--whether it was right or wrong--was because in the end, I have to protect my players."

Johnson is the Kings' enforcer, and he hammered Beukeboom in the third period of the Kings' 5-1 loss to New York on Thursday night.

Beukeboom had drawn a two-minute penalty at 9:20 of the period for tripping Glen Murray, an offense Johnson and other Kings deemed "slew-footing," or taking out Murray's skates from behind.

At 12:39, Johnson drew a match penalty for deliberately injuring Beukeboom.

"I felt he went after our best player," Johnson said. "Everybody in the building saw that what he did was very dangerous. I think slew-footing is more dangerous than punching a guy."

Beukeboom is being held out of tonight's Ranger game at San Jose after undergoing tests for what is believed to be a concussion.

"I know Johnson a little bit," he said. "You like to give somebody the benefit of the doubt. I think it could have been something that could have been solved in the proper way."

That way, apparently, is a fight.

What remains to be seen is how Campbell sees it. He has come down hard on blows to the head.

So far, 15 players have been suspended during the regular season and four during the exhibition season, the longest a seven-game suspension given to Tampa Bay's Andrei Nazarov.

Because Johnson is a repeat offender, the penalty could be stiffer, and more expensive.

He was suspended for two exhibitions and two regular-season games last season for slashing the San Jose Sharks' Todd Ewen. First offenses divide the number of games into the days in a season to determine how much salary is forfeited.

A season is generally considered 192 days long, which meant it cost Johnson 4/192nds of his pay.

Second offenses divide the season into games, and a 10-game suspension, for example, would cost him 10/82nds of his $650,000 salary.

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