It took nearly two full days, but finally, it was time.
Moments before heading into his final meeting with the media, Gerard Gallant spoke to Cody Eakin for the first time following the penalty that changed the series against the San Jose Sharks.
We left him alone. To be totally honest with you, I talked to him five minutes ago in the lunchroom and I said, ‘Cody’ and he said ‘Turk, I’m fine.’ -Gallant
With just over 10 minutes left in the game, Eakin was given a five-minute major penalty for cross-checking and a game misconduct, therefore ending the night for him, and eventually sinking the Golden Knights season. The NHL has since admitted the call was incorrect by informing, separately, George McPhee and The Creator via phone. They’ve pulled the referees who made the call from the playoffs, ending their seasons as well, and the process of changing the rules on how a penalty like that will be handled in the future are already underway.
He said ‘I know I didn’t do anything wrong, I’m fine.’ He said ‘I can move on and go from that.’ So, you know, you felt bad for Cody but he’s fine and he’s ready to go. And again, nobody is blaming Cody Eakin, obviously. -Gallant
And while no one is blaming Eakin, that doesn’t mean he didn’t have to live through what can only be described as one of the worst nightmares the sport of hockey has ever dolled out to an individual player.
Actually when they called me out of the box I thought, okay they reviewed it and realized it wasn’t a penalty and I was going back to the bench, but they said no you are gone.
They said get off the ice and that’s pretty much all that was said. There were no arguments or disagreements because really at the time I wasn’t quite sure what happened. I saw him on the ice but I know I didn’t cross-check him in the face or make him bleed personally. It was just accidental, so when he was on the ice bleeding I was kinda shocked I said what the heck just happened. -Eakin
That was pretty much the response of everyone on the in the arena, including the officials. What the heck just happened?
The only thing everyone knew was the San Jose Sharks Captain was laying on the ice, out cold, bleeding from the head and his only participation in the play was a face-off. He must have been seriously injured by Eakin, it’s the only thing that makes sense with this outcome, or at least that’s what the referees thought.
Everyone now knows that’s not what happened. But the referees went off script, didn’t follow the protocol laid out in the NHL Rulebook, made up a penalty they thought must have happened. It changed a series, the future of two franchises, and the night (and probably life) of Cody Eakin.
So I went right to the room where the extra guys were watching it. I watched the replay and figured out pretty quickly exactly what happened. I watched it about 20 times and then went to the locker room, sat there, and watched the rest of the game. -Eakin
What happened was a standard cross-check following a faceoff, which happens on just about every faceoff in the NHL. The result caused a player to lose his balance and incidental contact with Paul Stastny caused Joe Pavelski to fall dangerously onto the ice and hit his head. It’s not a major penalty, it’s probably not even a minor, it’s more so an unfortunate play in an intense Game 7 that is taking place on a surface made of ice, which at times can be slippery.
I’m trying to get out to my guy and he’s in my way so I try to go right through him and it wasn’t a cross-check to the face. Unfortunate circumstances that he was caught off guard and another player came and tried to get through him as well and it’s a bad fall. Everyone watched it, everyone saw what happened and it’s unfortunate what happened, I don’t want to see that happen to anyone. -Eakin
The rest quickly became history, and there was nothing Cody Eakin could do about it but watch.
It’s tough. Things are happening so fast and you want to be out there to try and change it. -Eakin
Imagine how nervous you felt watching Game 7 as the Golden Knights went from a virtual lock to advance to the Second Round, to down a goal, to overtime, to eventually seeing their season come to an abrupt end. However you felt, it was a million times worse for #21.
I was pacing back and forth for about the rest of the time. -Eakin
And all because of a mistake made by someone else.
There’s a lot of tough moments, I don’t know if it was the toughest but it was… it was… you know it was just… it just kinda happened. It was… it was, uh, kinda surreal. -Eakin
It’s real now though and it will be forever.
The next time Cody Eakin will play a meaningful hockey game will be in five months. The next time he’ll play in the playoffs is at least 11 months away, hopefully. The next time he’ll play in a Game 7, on the road, with a 3-0 lead, all the favorites in the NHL already eliminated, and a group of teammates capable of winning the Stanley Cup… that’s probably never.
It sucks. It sucks our season’s over. It sucks for them, it sucks for Pav(elski), it sucks for us, it sucked for the league, it sucked for the city… -Eakin
But we’ll be back. -Eakin