Matheson’s Hit On Pettersson Was Retaliation For Pettersson’s Superior Skill–And Canuck Fans Should Be Very, Very Upset About It

There’s a lot of emotion in the Vancouver Canucks fanbase right now, and it’s no mystery as to why. Rookie superstar Elias Pettersson—the saviour of the franchise—was injured last night after receiving a stiff check and a veritable bodyslam from Michael Matheson of the Florida Panthers—and nothing happened in response to it.

While Canuck fans are now talking about the viability of retaliation, I’m here to argue that retaliation has already occurred: Matheson’s actions were retaliatory in nature, and a clear reaction to Pettersson dominating Matheson throughout the game. In other words, Pettersson got hurt by an inferior player because he was way better at hockey than them, and that should absolutely set Canuck fans’ blood to boil.


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Elias Pettersson Embarrassed Michael Matheson All Night Long—And Matheson Retaliated With A Cheapshot

Early on in the game, Pettersson’s check-avoiding wizardry was on full display, and Matheson was the unfortunate victim:



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At this point, one has to presume that Matheson’s coach told him he’d be matching up with the Pettersson line all game, and Matheson presumably let out a heavy sigh and prepared for more shifts like this:



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It wasn’t just Elias himself frustrating Matheson, either, as evidenced by his tripping penalty against Nikolay Goldobin in the second period after getting overwhelmed yet again:









Who was on the ice as Pettersson sniped his fifth goal of the year? Why, none other than Michael Matheson—crouching idly by as Petey blew one right past him:

Of course, just moments before the incident, Pettersson broke Matheson’s ankles with a spin move at the half-wall, and that seemed to be the last straw for Matheson, who retaliated a moment later:

Again, the initial hit on Pettersson, though it was clearly retaliatory, was justifiable—even if it contained a bit of a “can-opener.” The hurling of Pettersson to the ice by way of his face, long after the puck had departed the area, was less so, and far from a typical hockey play. It was a cheapshot—and one with a clear retaliatory narrative at that:  


What’s Wrong With This Picture?

It doesn’t take a rocket surgeon to figure out why this narrative is so frustrating for Canuck fans. Elias Pettersson started the season by absolutely dominating opponents with his superior skill-level, and that led directly to a retaliatory cheap shot that resulted in a head injury. In other words, Pettersson was punished for being better at hockey than Michael Matheson, and that’s infuriating for a franchise that doesn’t have all that much “superior skill” to get excited about.


To make matters worse, one of the referees was a few feet away from the incident when it occurred—and did nothing. The Canucks weren’t even lucky enough to receive a powerplay opportunity to seal the win, and the fanbase is already preparing for a typically underwhelming response from the Department of Player Safety after a scheduled phone hearing. The Panthers will likely be without Matheson for a game or two at the most, whereas Vancouver could be missing Pettersson for weeks. This hardly feels like justice.


Pettersson seemed destined to be one of the few bright spots in the 2018/19 season, and he probably still will be, but for now, his story has turned into a negative one—yet another incident to throw on the contentious pile of history between the Vancouver Canucks and the National Hockey League. This fanbase has suffered indignities at the behest of the league before, but this one hurts even more than usual.


Is Retaliation The Answer?

I believe it was Mohandas Gandhi who famously noted that “an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind,” but one can only assume that—if the Mahatma himself were in attendance at last night’s game in Sunrise, Florida—he’d be hopping up and down with the rest of us shouting for “someone to rip that Matheson guy’s eyes right out of his goddamn head!”


Unfortunately, Canuck fans have some additional wisdom to consider when thinking about the pros and cons of retaliatory violence. Retaliation is an undeniable aspect of hockey culture, but it’s also the line of thought that brought us incidents like Todd Bertuzzi on Steve Moore, Marty McSorley on Donald Brashear, and Jesse Boulerice on Ryan Kesler. As a franchise that has been on both sides of the vengeance-seeking routine, Vancouverites know that such vindictive endeavours rarely work out in the favour of anyone involved—just ask Travis Hamonic’s face—and more often than not lead to nothing more than a black eye on the sport of hockey.


In fact, Antoine Roussel’s specific words about waiting for the rematch at Rogers Arena to exact revenge on Matheson should send a shiver down the spine of any Canuck supporter, as that’s the exact reasoning that was used by the team before Bertuzzi broke Moore’s neck. Even if nobody is planning to put Matheson in traction, it’s still a line of thinking that doesn’t really work. The teams don’t play again until January, which means the dark cloud of the Matheson cheapshot will hang over the team for at least that long. The emotions will fester, and the possibility for excessive violence will increase—especially if Vancouver struggles in the superstar rookie’s absence. In the meantime, Pettersson will presumably return to action, and opponents will yet to have seen any real reason why they can’t throw him around in a similar fashion.


One can certainly understand where coach Travis Green as coming from when he instructed his players to go for the win rather than revenge, but most in the fanbase would agree that protecting Pettersson is indefinitely more important than earning any number of points in the 2018/19 season. Obviously, an NHL head coach probably can’t get away with publicly saying such a thing, but that doesn’t mean he made the right call, either.


No one should be advocating for a retaliatory cheapshot or any other attempt to injure Matheson for his actions against Pettersson. But one has to imagine that the Canucks would have been willing and motivated to kill a two-minute instigator penalty to Roussel for forcing Matheson into a fight—and then Matheson would have a slightly sorer face and the entire incident would be over and done with. It’s easy to agree with Green’s comment that his players shouldn’t be “running around” in a 3-2 hockey game, but they also should have been going over and above to finish their checks on each of the notable Panthers, like Alexander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, and Vincent Trocheck.


In short, the Canucks can’t afford to not send a message that an opposing team can get away with injuring their young stars on purpose. If the refs are going to let Matheson get off scot-free—despite standing a couple of feet away while he bodyslammed Pettersson—then the onus falls to the Canucks themselves to send that message. Again, this isn’t meant to advocate for some sort of retaliatory cheap shot. Instead, Matheson should have a black eye today and Barkov should be hurting from a few extra bone-rattling checks. If that had happened, Vancouver would still be without Pettersson—but at least we wouldn’t be spending all this time fretting about the team culture, or lack thereof.


    Nothing to cry about it was a clean hit. There was no stick between the legs, the player was turned so it wasn’t between the numbers and no head shot so it’s just a defenceman playing position. The fact the Nuk’s didn’t retaliate is either they saw the same thing “a clean hit” or they have no heart or no team loyalty.

  • Killer Marmot

    Two points:

    1. Likely the reason that the Canucks didn’t retaliate immediately is that most of them didn’t realize how bad Matheson’s play was. It’s only after watching it on video multiple times do you realize how vicious it is.

    2. If Florida’s coach has any sense, Matheson will not play against the Canucks this season or even the next.

    • Robby-D

      I disagree on your point #2 – if Florida’s coach has any sense, he realizes that a) Matheson could contribute the most by being disposable, and b) it’s a sound strategy to sacrifice Matheson to get a few penalties and try to get the advantage in the game. If I were Florida’s coach, I’d tell Matheson to hit Canucks’ forwards hard but legally every chance he gets, and to get under the skin and draw penalties.

      • Killer Marmot

        The second worst thing that ever happened to the Canucks was the Bertuzzi-Moore incident (#1: the death of Luc Bourdon). At some point it stops being a game.

        • North Van Halen

          The problem was (beside Beruzzi’s idiocy) Moore running from the fight for 3 games and allowing it to fester until it blew up in an 8 – 2 blow out. If Matheson dresses and answers the bell when asked, ala Guddy against Calgary, the situation will diffuse.
          Hiding Matheson or having him run when confronted is what will escalate the issue, not the other way around.

          • Killer Marmot

            Florida’s coach doesn’t have to guess how Moore could have avoided the incident 14 years ago. Making sure Matheson doesn’t step foot in Vancouver next January is simple and effective, and would do a lot to diffuse the situation.

          • North Van Halen

            It wouldn’t. At all. It would make Vancouver chase their stars, followed by more hype the next time they played.
            I’m not sure where you learned conflict resolution but I’ve never seen a case where running from a problem diffused it. Meet it head on and it goes away.

          • North Van Halen

            And Moore and his coach shouldn’t have avoided the situation 14 years ago. It should have been dealt with promptly instead of allowing it to fester like you suggest.

          • Killer Marmot

            And Moore and his coach shouldn’t have avoided the situation 14 years ago. It should have been dealt with promptly instead of allowing it to fester like you suggest.

            Allow to fester? What choice is there?

            It might well have been better if someone had fought Matheson right then and there, but that didn’t happen.

            So now Canucks players get to think about this for three months, with many fans questioning their manhood. The situation is going to fester whether you like it or not. That’s the problem.

            The Panthers are not in the Western Conference. The two teams only play each other twice a year. It’s an easy thing to make sure Matheson isn’t there.

          • North Van Halen

            Moore and Cooke had a sad wrestling match in the 2nd game after Moore had concussed Nazzy. Moore avoided all confrontations for the previous 2 games despite multiple requests from every Canuck tough guy After essentially 3 straight games of running, Moore grabbed Cooke and held on for dear life and Moore considered the matter closed. The Canucks clearly did not. After chasing Moore for games a wrestling match with the smallest non-enforcer on the team was not going to settle things. The situation – here it comes Marmot – had been allowed to fester too long and now a simple fight was not going to cut it.
            So yes Moore fought Cooke, but no, nowhere near immediately after after nor early in the next game. Had he done so, none of what occurred next would have.

          • North Van Halen

            So Marmot what I’m saying is not that Matheson shoula gone looking to have the score settled last game but shift 1 go find Roussell and face the music. Later in the game if Guddy wants a piece? Take that too. Then, this will all go away. Anything else ask and stupid things start to happen.

    • Canuck4Life20

      And I disagree on point #1. The players may not have realized what happened at first, but they have replays on the bench now and they would have figured out pretty quickly what happened. Seeing Pettersson go off the ice the way he did should have been reason enough for a response.

      The real issue though is the lack of a call from the ref and soon a token suspension from the NHL.

      • Killer Marmot

        And did the replays the players have access to actually show the slam down? We don’t know. The incident was away from the puck, which is why the refs missed it. The refs are not supposed to miss thing, but even they get focused on the puck.

    • crofton

      Plus I doubt many even saw it live. The play had turned back up the ice already…look at the goalie’s eyes, they tell you where the play is, everyone else on the ice was looking in the same direction.

  • Steamer

    THE LAST POST: After 50+ years as a player, coach & ref & long-suffering Canuck fan, I am now bidding adieu to the team. There were 2 things that needed to occur after Matheson’s attack on Pettersson: #1) The Canuck bench needed to go over the boards en masse & seek immediate retribution on the piece of crap that deliberately injured a 19 year-old kid; #2) A ‘follow-up’ message needed to be sent to the Panthers’ best player – Barkov. Neither of those things occurred; instead, the entire league watched & learned that the Canuck players & coaches will do NOTHING if their best players are targeted. I have lost ALL RESPECT for Travis Green & the Canuck coaches & players. I no longer care what happens to any of them – trade Horvat & Boeser – could care less about this team now. When Guddy hit Dube, Hamonic wasted no time in stepping up to defend his teammate & his sacrifice was not lost on his teammates, the Calgary fans, or players around the league, who understand & respect someone who stands up for a teammate. For Travis Green to suggest that 2 points is more important than defending a teammate – especially a 19 year-old who weighs about 170 lbs – is shameful. When Matheson assaulted Pettersson, the outcome of the game was no longer of any concern; the only focus should have been the team’s response. Instead, there was nothing & frustrated fans were then forced to listen to an out-to-lunch coach crow about ‘discipline’ & ‘two points’, as their star player sat in a ‘quiet room’ nursing a brain injury. I have never been so ASHAMED in my entire life to be a fan & if that’s the kind of team this is, I want NOTHING to do with it. Completely agree with Vanessa Yang & others in this regard. Further, for the Canucks to put Pettersson on a plane with a concussion after the Demko debacle reveals the extent of the utter stupidity of the Canucks management. After ignoring Demko’s complaints & forcing him to fly with a concussion, Benning exacerbated Demko’s symptoms – one can only wonder how Thatcher now feels about a team that obviously cares not about players’ health & welfare. What an absolutely third-class organization!!! Totally done with this team. Just sickened by their idiocy in every aspect!

  • DJ_44

    To state the hit was “retaliatory” or “predatory” is beyond stupid. It is classless and is what gives intelligent Canucks fans a bad rap. It is as if the entire article was written by a 12 year old viewing the world through that lens.

    The hit was fine. It was not predatory: Pettersson was Matheson’s man. However, once Pettersson was in the air, he was in a vulnerable and defensless position. Matheson crossed the line by driving him into the ice. That is suspendable, (I say 2 games given Matheson’s lack of history). Driving the player to the ice when he is in that position is completely avoidable, more so than some instantaneous hit that get the head (certainly not all).

    But really. The reaction to the hit fuelled by the media is beyond stupid. Grow up. It is professional hockey.

    • Canuck4Life20

      There was nothing fine about that hit. He wouldn’t have been in the air to begin with if he hadn’t been thrown off balance by the stick between his legs.

    • Giant-Nation

      I agree with DJ that to call the hit predatory is quite laughable. Players get embarrassed, miss assignments, blow coverage, get walked on etc.. all the time. Those players when given a chance do hit the player that is doing damage to their team – This is normal competitive pro sports! Matheson is allowed to make that hit. What he is not permitted to do is the body slam, which the league will punish.

      The issue for me is the coaches direction to not retaliate with some hits, scrums or possibly a fight, but it didn’t need to be a fight.

      Most fans just wanted to see some ounce of push back. Green talking about two points, or Horvat talking about composure was really embarrassing. Doesn’t matter what team sport you play you want to know your teammates have your back or at the least get upset if your injured with an illegal play. The team played on as if nothing had happened. Boeser is still finding his game …I think the team is about to find out how important EP is to the team right now on the ice and they lose a ton of eyeballs w/ out him playing.

      • DJ_44

        Embarrassing? Horvat’s line went out and scored on Matheson’s next shift. They then shut them down and won a well played road game in the middle of a very difficult road trip.

        But they were suppose to turn into an undisciplined goon squad to appease weak minded fans and media.

        From the outside, the team looks pretty tight. All of this anger directed towards the team is embarrassing stupidity.

        • Giant-Nation

          Yes Quite embarrassing DJ. Stop blowing hard on everyone that would like a clean hit or scrum/facewash as Goonery..,that narrative is quite ignorant. I don’t want a Canuck player to injure a Panther, nor do I want any level of barbaric retort. But not one Canuck even yelled at Matheson. SHAMEFUL. Horvat scores …that is great leadership, awesome pass by B. But that is a short term blip, if our potential Captain increased his physicality, then came out in the post game passed off we and the guys in the room would go through the wall for him. When your best producer (19 year old rookie) gets knocked out with head injury and your potential leader talks about composure?? In your world DJ Quinn Hughes gets concussed next year with an illegal hit and you will be happy again with no response…this does not build a fearless warrior team first culture…you live in a fantasy world where your boss at work throws you to the flames to push his agenda then expects your loyalty. You think Yzerman would act like this or any great Captain…SOFT, EP freaking lit it up and no one pushed back, your ignorant….Can’t wait for another illegal hit, no push back and DJ happy. #brutal

          • DJ_44

            No players on the ice saw it. given where it occurred on the ice and the fact the play had moved on, it is doubtful any players on the bench saw it. Listen to Green’s comments after the game and today. Matheson was not even on the ice for the last six minutes, but they are some how suppose to run him on the bench.

            Grow up you troll. If a player on the ice saw it, there would have been immediate reaction. FoxSports replay (which I watched) did not show Pettersson being driven to the ice. Do you know which replay the Canucks watch on their iPad?

            Even Ferraro stated unequivocally that it will not change how other teams play, or how your young players play.

            You cannot blame players when they do not see the play. Simple as that.

          • Giant-Nation

            Okay DJ you are just repeating Greens words..’no one saw it”. These guys on the bench worked their ass off in the game to get to the NCAA or Major Junior, Then AHL, they finally made the big show and if you for one second believe that not one player on the bench saw EP break Matheson down and were not watching him track EP behind the play you honestly believe the entire bench at that time are completely ignorant. Of course a few guys were tracking EP on the bench and you can bet your ass they communicated it to their team. As Ep hobbled to the bench do you not really think Green didn’t see what happened on the iPad, this is the NHL. Then after the game Green states he didn’t want guys running around, and Horvat states that the team maintained composure… do you really think the team had no idea what happened? This was Green in the game making a decision not to retaliate and communicating it to the players. Do really think no one asked on the bench what happened? This is so ridiculous… Green made a decision to not retaliate, he communicated it to his players end of story. The Coach is creating this culture, I agree with you and Ferraro you can’t stop it by responding all the time…. that is not what this is about, it’s about responding for Elias, so he know you have his back, and Boeser knows his team has his back and Hughes watching knows he can use his full skill set and might get hit next year but his team will push back.DJ Qoute ” you cannot blame players when they do not see the play” So ignorant… they all new what happened 15 minutes left in the game….its pro hockey… they all new what happened. This is Green back peddling and you can’t see it.

  • Canuck4Life20

    This article gets to the real issue much better than Jackson’s load of crap yesterday. But the question I have is why the ref didn’t do anything and why the NHL does such a poor job of protecting his players. I’m honestly surprised that he has a hearing, but if it’s anything less than 5 games it won’t be enough.

  • Marvin101

    you can’t put lipstick on this pig. benning vastly overpaid for his free agents that were going to provide grit. maybe not immediate retaliation but they were supposed to be the deterrent for players taking cheap shots.

    if i’m aquilinni and i look at bennings free agent spending spree, benning is gone. and benning gets no credit for drafting pettersson, it was thomas gradin who found him and kept pestering benning to draft him.

    • DJ_44

      You have no understanding of grit or toughness or hockey for that matter. Schaller, Beagle and now Rousell have been excellent.

      The PK is over 90% and the Canucks could easily be 4-1 if Markstrom provided average goaltending in Carolina.

      Some fans are not comfortable with success or progress.

      • Marvin101

        so the big 3 free agents have been excellent?

        rousell has played a grand total of 8 minutes.
        schaller has been scratched twice
        beagle has 1 point in 5 games and now he’s out 6 weeks with an injury

        and now the player they were supposed to protect (according to benning) is out with a concussion.

        those are facts.

        • Beer Can Boyd

          Roussel was playing in his first game.8-10 minutes will be his average ice time this year. Schaller was scratched for the first 2 games, it won’t happen again as long as he is healthy. I didn’t realize the Canucks had signed Beagle to score. He has led the PK to a +90% rating over the first 5 games. Shame on him for blocking a shot and getting injured. Nice job of slanting the facts though.

    • truthseeker

      Yeah this MMA wannabe culture that’s so prevalent in the male population of the lower mainland is really a disgusting trend that is a result of terrible lazy parenting. A bunch of morons who chose idiocy over paying attention in school.

  • Darren C

    Performing a ‘Rock Bottom’ is one thing in a squared circle set on springs, but another thing entirely performed on ice.
    Of one thing I’m certain, if Pettersson played for one of the ‘metroplex teams’ (DC to Boston) or in the republic of Tranna there would be a hell of a lot more media pressure on the NHL to do the right thing. Unfortunately Pettersson is based in the colonies so pending justice will be underwhelming.

    • Rodeobill

      Right!? Just take a gentlemanly 3 second throwdown, duck your head so they punch your helmet, go to the ice when you have had enough and they will stop, and it’s done, the team feels its done right by EP, EP feels touched that his new brothers in arms have got his back, the fans feels satiated of righteous bloodlust, Metheson doesn’t have to worry and look over his shoulder all year, and all is back to hockey in the normal world.

  • speering major

    The league should handle this with escalating suspensions. Tom Wilson will have learned his lesson by now or his next cheap shot will cost him another 7 figures and half a season.

    On the ice Matheson should be targeted and challenged repeatedly until he accepts. I’m sure he has the character to accept. He will likely have to fight Roussel or Gudbranson. J.V. will likely go out of his way and out of position to take a clean run or two at him also. Matheson will pay a price if the league suspends him. If the league lets him get away with this I will be very frustrated. I don’t think Matheson realized how dangerous his throw was but the league needs to send a message.

    I also don’t buy into the idea that all players are equal. If Marchand and a D are going after each other all game, you can expect a bit extra and understand it. When a young talented star is targeted for just playing the game, the league needs to seriously set the tone. Petterson isn’t an agitator, trash talker, or hot dog. He was targeted because he’s good. This is exactly what the league can’t tolerate

  • Kootenaydude

    As my way of protest. I won’t be watching any Canucks games til Pettersson is back in the lineup. I cant support a team that doesn’t even stick up for their own teammates. That’s not what I call a real team.

    • Killer Marmot

      As I mentioned elsewhere, there’s a good possibility that most players did not know how vicious the play was until after the game. They only knew that Pettersson had been injured. Thus I wouldn’t be in a hurry to condemn the other players.

  • Kanuckhotep

    Man is this ever a hot topic!! The Bapu Ji quote cited by an obviously cultured guy like Stephan is apt. However what’s most bothersome in all of this is the NHL’s hypocritical jingoism concerning “protecting our star players.” What nonsense. So take out Sidney, Ovie, Lavine, McJesus, Tavares AND Petey and let fans who buy tickets to see the best of the best be disappointed when they’re on the IRL. Certainly I’d’ve liked to have seen Matheson become a permanent part of the boards too. It’s the league and the PA who are not making the uncalled-for gorilla aspect of the game go away. Rules are one thing but fair and equitable enforcement of said rules is quite a different story.

  • Captain Video

    The initial hit wasn’t objectionable. It was the “can opener” aspect of it and throw down that isn’t a hockey play.

    It’s incredibly disappointing that there wasn’t a team leader like a Hamonic or even a Miller on the Canucks who would immediately come to the kid’s aid and stand up for the Canucks best rookie since Bure. As a result, for the rest of the season it’s basically open season on EP. When you don’t defend yourself, you’re a target, plain and simple. It’s the reason the Canucks lost to the Bruins in 2011.

    Maybe the best course of action is to send EP down to the AHL or back to Sweden until he puts it on enough weight to defend himself – because his teammates certainly have shown they don’t have the spine to.

  • Jim "Dumpster Fire" Benning

    Very good article. Kudos for writing a much more focused piece than your colleague Macdonald did. You summarized the position and feeling of most fans here quite well IMO.

  • Ragnarok Ouroboros

    The eye for eye mentality is wrong. The onus should not be on the players to take justice into their own hands. NHL players are employees of the NHL, and the onus is on the NHL to provide a safe working environment. There should be zero tolerance for take downs like Matheson’s. The best players in the league should be allowed to shine without having to worry about a washed up fourth liner taking them out. I pay to see high end talent players play not thugs gooning it up.

  • Jimjamg

    Finish your gdam checks on the other teams best players. Show you give a crap at least. Bunch of primma donna self-absorbed millenial athletes afraid to break a nail. Garbage.

  • Rayman

    This team’s softness just makes me sigh…..

    Nobody stands up for teammates and what? They enjoy getting 2 completely meaningless points?

    Talk about the toxic environment.
    Do you thing Hughes’s looking forward to playing with this I DON’T CARE AS LONG AS I AM FINE team?

    So sad I call this my team…