(Originally published at Kukla’s Korner, January 27, 2013)
There was some fuss after Brad Stuart’s hit on Gabriel Landeskog during the Saturday game in San Jose. There were two things about the fuss and the subsequent penalties that made me think “dumb, and dumber.”
I am no expert on NHL hits, but Stuart’s hit reminded me of a hit by Niklas Kronwall on Jakub Voracek in a game last season. There are probably better comparables out there, but it’s one that was recent enough to fall under similar officiating and review standards.
Suffice to say, Landeskog came away from being hit in better shape than Voracek did. Still, the Kronwall hit didn’t result in a suspension, or even a penalty. There was no reason to think the Stuart one would either.
Let’s look at the two:
Stuart hit, January 26, 2013:
I would have used an Avalanche feed to avoid accusations of bias, but the Sharks feed had better angles on the hit. Compare that to the Kronwall hit of March 6, 2012:
See, that’s the kind of otherwise legal hit that should make people freak out and call for a review. I don’t mean Kronwall should have been penalized, but the raw violence of the hit begs a reaction. Yes, Brad Stuart hit Gabriel Landeskog very hard, but it was dumb to think it would have been considered suspendable.
Landeskog can’t be accused of not keeping his head up. He saw it coming, he acknowledged as much afterwards. He may not have seen it coming as far out as he could have, but he did see it and did brace himself. So why in the world would Stuart be suspended? He wouldn’t be.
Why did Ryan O’Byrne start a fight over it? Oh, right, hockey players do that a lot of the time: big hits lead to fights. Players aren’t officials, they don’t examine video replays before determining the proper response.
More relevant, why does the NHL have that stupid rule about initiating a fight while wearing a visor? Maybe it’s the anti-fighter in me, but it seems ridiculous to make fighters remove a visored helmet before fighting. Players aren’t required to remove visorless helmets, even if they are allowed to do so. Why should a player who wants to be ready to fight have to risk greater injury than the inevitable head pounding sustained in a fight? Why shouldn’t he have eye protection during the rest of the game, or skull protection in case he goes down and hits his head on the ice?
Can’t NHL players fight with visors on? AHL and ECHL players do it. Sena Acolatse of the Worcester Sharks has elevated body blows to an art, and he can pummel the exposed areas of a visored face just fine. If he can do it, why would his own visor pose such a problem for someone trying to hit him back? Why do NHL players get additional penalties for starting a fight while wearing a visor? It’s even dumber than assuming that a hard hit must also be an illegal one.
Don’t get me wrong: I don’t want anyone to get injured, especially not in his brain or his spine. I’m less squeamish about extremities. For this reason, I appreciate a good clean hit, one where a player controls the contact and minimizes harm, while still making a lasting impression on the target. Both of the above hits began with contact to the head, they are not the kind of hit I like. But to avoid the head contact, Kronwall and Stuart would have had to avoid the hit completely– Voracek’s and Landeskog’s heads were ahead of their bodies, since they were trying to skate forwards in a hurry. Still, neither hitter was sneaking up on his target. In the gladiator code of conduct, and under NHL rules, they were fair.
Important correction to my post from Twitter:
@210Darryl: “@petshark47 You are misunderstanding the visor rule. The penalty is only for instigating a fight w/ visor if your opponent isn’t wearing one.”
@210Darryl: “@petshark47 If both players are wearing a visor it’s not a penalty. Not a penalty in minors as visors are mandatory & all players have them”
Thanks to @210Darryl. I was misunderstanding it.