DALLAS -- Dallas Stars winger Corey Perry, the first player to be ejected from an NHL Winter Classic, said his hit that injured Nashville Predators defenseman Ryan Ellis was an "awkward play" with unintentional results.
"I've played with Ryan before. I know him personally. It's very unintentional. I didn't mean to hurt him. I hope he's OK," Perry said after the Stars' 4-2 win on Wednesday at the Cotton Bowl.
In the first period, Ellis kept the puck in the attacking zone at the blue line and attempted a shot on the Dallas goal. Perry skated in front of him and stuck his elbow up, making contact with Ellis's head. Ellis immediately fell flat on the ice, chest down, and remained down for more than a minute as Perry was escorted to the penalty box. Once there, the officials conferred and decided that Perry would be given a five-minute major for elbowing, which carries with it a game misconduct.
"It was an awkward play. I reached up to try and deflect the puck. It's unfortunate," Perry said.
Ellis left the ice with the help of teammates, was carted to the dressing room and did not return to the game. Perry, meanwhile, took one of the longest walks of shame in NHL history, leaving the ice to walk down a runway on the field and all the way up a tunnel to the Stars dressing room in the football stadium. It was a distance so long that the game's goaltenders used motorized carts to travel it.
Nashville gained a measure of revenge for losing Ellis, scoring two power-play goals during the major penalty to take a 2-0 lead in the outdoor game. Eventually, Dallas rallied and was victorious in front of 85,630 fans.
The Stars and Predators saw the play differently.
"Yeah, that was a bad hit," said Roman Josi, who plays with Ellis on the Nashville blue line. "The kind of hit that you're trying to get out of the game. He's shooting the puck, and he gets him right in the head. I thought it was a really bad hit."
Dallas interim coach Rick Bowness defended the play as an accident and defended Perry as a player who isn't looking to hurt his opponents.
"It's unfortunate. It's one of those things that happens during the course of a game. Corey Perry is a great competitor. A wonderful, wonderful player. Sometimes in hockey when you go to make a hit, you get into some unfortunate situations," Bowness said. "Corey Perry would never try to hurt anyone. He would play hard, but intention? No."
Perry signed with Dallas in the offseason after 13 seasons with the Anaheim Ducks. He has three goals and 10 assists in 33 games.
Predators forward Austin Watson said the hit was unfortunate for both Ellis and Perry. "I didn't like the hit. It was high. It was elbow extended. I'm sure the league will look at it," he said. "It sucks. It sucks for [Ellis]. One of our best players. A guy that gives an incredible amount to this team, and he misses an entire Winter Classic. And it sucks for [Perry], too. He doesn't get to play in a game because of something like that."
The NHL Player Safety department later announced that Perry will have a hearing for the elbow on Friday.