Sunday, March 7, 2010

HockeySureShot takes on the NHL's stance on illegal hits

How many times have you heard the rhetoric after a big hit in the NHL that causes injury ? After Saturday's scary scene that saw Micheal Ryder of the Boston Bruins check New York Islanders forward Blake Comeau from behind into the end boards where Comeau lay motionless for several seconds, Nick Kypreos tweeted from his Twitter account "Ryder shouldn't be suspended for his hit on Comeau this afternoon. Comeau put himself in a vulnerable position when he didn't have to." What bothers me about that statement is not that he doesn't think Ryder should be suspended, but that he takes all responsibility away from the checking player, in this case Ryder because Comeau had his back to the play. It's a cop out. It also justifies the lack of respect Ryder showed Comeau as he stared at his number 57 on the back of his jersey and then guided him head first into the boards from behind. Also, who is Kypreos to say how Blake Comeau should play that puck? By the way, Ryder won't be suspended.
In a hit from behind just a couple months back, we saw Andy Sutton who was then on the Islanders, hit Pascal Dupuis from behind where Dupuis put himself in a similar position as Comeau. Sutton was suspended for 2 games and rightfully so for this hit. Would Kypreos say the same about that hit?
Sunday saw another illegal hit, this time Matt Cooke of the Pittsburgh Penguins blindsided Marc Savard with a forearm to the head. According the Bruins, Savard was knocked unconscious and suffered a concussion and is out indefinitely. Ironically, the General Managers of the NHL are scheduled to meet in Florida Monday March 8 through Wednesday the 10th. Hits to the head was already a priority for this meeting. Now, add the Savard hit to the list of reviewable material.
Matt Cooke will probably be suspended for hit in Sunday afternoon's game. The NHL including Commissioner Gary Bettman have known head shots and injuries have been a problem in today's game for a while and have discussed the issue all season. Back in November Bettman was quoted as saying, "Everybody in the room knows that this is an important subject. It's going to require further discussion because it's not a simple subject. (The March meetings) will be an opportunity to look at the subject even more in an in-depth way." "But I do think there's a sense when there's a shot to the head for a player who is in a vulnerable position or is unsuspecting, that's something that can and should be addressed." Oh really? Then why doesn't NHL Vice President and disciplinarian Colin Campbell back up those words? On October 24th, 2009, David Booth of the Florida Panthers gets blindsided by the Flyers Mike Richards. Booth in a defenseless position takes a shoulder to the head as Richards follows through. Booth was hospitalized with a concussion and missed 45 games due to post concussion syndrome and a chance at making the US Olympic team. Richards was never suspended by Colin Campbell. Booth talked to Craig Custance of the Sporting News 4 weeks after the incident.
This hit was debated on MSG's Hockey Night Live by analysts Butch Goring, Mike Keenan and Stan Fischler. Richards didn't receive a suspension on the hit of David Booth. Matt Cooke almost certainly will, but after you look at both hits, can you tell me what is the difference? Both hits were to players without the puck in vulnerable positions. Both players got hit in the head. Booth was out for 45 games, over 3 months and we can just wait and see if Savard can get back to playing this season at all.
Suspensions and lack of suspensions are all subjective to Colin Campbell. There is no set suspension or fine for an illegal hit or hit to the head. Which is why you are likely to see Matt Cooke get suspended and why you didn't see Mike Richards get suspended for almost an identical infraction. Explain to me Mr. Campbell how you were able to hand down a 3 game suspension to Curtis Glencross on this hit to Chris Drury? This was definitely a blindside hit, however it was performed with much less malice and intent then Richards hit on Booth, or Cookes' hit on Savard. The final kicker to us is this hit ironically enough on Matt Cooke from Duncan Keith in a game from December. Keith hit Cooke in the head from his blind side seconds after (not shown in video) Cooke gave Keith a bit of a shot himself. Somehow, Keith wasn't suspended.
HockeySureShot would really love to sit down with Mr. Campbell and have him talk us through his decision making. The small amount of evidence here proves that the NHL needs to address illegal hits, especially hits to the head at this GM meeting. Too many times there are discrepancies on suspensions on almost identical infractions. Who else is tired of watching players get wheeled off the ice in stretchers because an opposing player throws a shot to their head, or throws them from behind into the boards because "the player had their head down," or "the player put themselves in that position?" To us, that's a cop out and it's a cop out that is going to see a player get permanently hurt or even worse. The NHL needs a guideline on head shot penalties and suspensions. Lets hope the David Booth injury is for the greater good of the game and health of the players.