Things That Don’t Belong in the Game

Last night, in a game between the Philadelphia Flyers and the New York Rangers, Braydon Coburn cross-checked Nikolai Antropov in the head (h/t to Puck Daddy).

Asked about a possible suspension, Flyers coach John Stevens said this:

“I would hope not. I asked him what happened and he thought he hit him more with his glove than anything else.”

Obviously, Stevens isn’t going to hang his player out to dry. Out of curiosity, though, what’s the difference between that play and the hit by Jesse Boulerice on Ryan Kesler? Both hits were cross-checks to the head, both were well away from the play, and both featured a Philadelphia Flyer retaliating against a player that had aggravated him earlier in the game (Antropov high-sticked Coburn, Kesler hooked and slashed Boulerice).

The obvious difference, of course, is the name of the player involved. We’ve seen the NHL’s double-standard at work repeatedly over the years (the best example probably being the suspensions handed out to Chris Simon and Chris Pronger for similar incidents).

It’s been a funny month for the NHL – the thirty G.M.’s recommended a rule change that would crack down on fighting, and certain people in the hockey world feel that it should be taken out of the game entirely. Meanwhile, Paul Kelly and the NHLPA submitted a proposal that would see shoulder checks to the head penalized; the objective being to prevent “clean” hits like the one that sidelined Brandon Sutter.

Does anyone else find it odd that two plays that have been a legitimate part of hockey for years are seeing movements to curtail them, but at the same time it seems like we have a stick to the head incident at least once a season? Aside from the Flyers incident above, there was Alexander Perezhogin’s hit on Garrett Stafford, and Chris Simon’s slash on Ryan Hollweg. It’s only a matter of time before one of these incidents kills or seriously injures somebody – and the worst part of it is, these aren’t hockey plays, these are assaults. Admittedly, the Coburn incident isn’t as brutal as some of these others, but he’s still using his stick to hit a guy in the head far away from the puck.

It isn’t a play that should be tolerated in any of its forms. The NHL has removed non-hockey plays from the game with harsh disciplinary rules before – things like contact with the referee, line brawls and the like have been completely eliminated from the game. In my opinion, intentionally hitting a guy in the head with a stick should fall into that category as well, and I think the best way to do it is obvious. Institute a new rule this summer, with a mandatory suspension for those sorts of plays. Make it a career damaging suspension – at least 25 games, possibly as long as 82 games.

There isn’t any place in hockey for players who hit people in the head with their stick. At least, there shouldn’t be.

  • Hippy

    The easiest way, in my opinion, to slove the problem of head shots and other cheap acts is to get rid of the instigator rule. Let the players police themselves like they used to.

  • Hippy

    Jonathan Willis wrote:

    Out of curiousity: how would you address it? Personally, I’d like to see Campbell take it into his own hands to make suspensions for these kinds of incidents heavier, but he’s shown an inability to do it over the years.
    Also, what negative consequences do you see taking place?

    To be perfectly honest it is tough to say. I think the game has been micro managed down a slippery slope that is getting tougher and tougher to correct.

    It sounds overly simple and neanderthal to trott out the old reliable mantra of recinding the instigator rule but at the base of it all I think it boils down to respect for the game. It's lacking.

    There is also the simple adage that the rules already exist and how they call it or tack on supplemental dicipline is all that needs reviewing.

    The more rules you make or adjust the more you take the natural respect factor out of the players concience.

    As for consequences, players always tend to find a way to perverse new rules.

    Whether it happened in this case or not DW's description is a good example of the direction it could go.

    Other examples from the past is the crack down on hits from behind which lead to players turning their back oto the play along the boards. The automatic 4 minute highstick if you draw blood and guys immediately started biting their lip.

    I know this is moving beyond your topic but take the so called new fighting rules that are proposed and think back to what happened to Penner last week. How long before guys start to figure out that they can forego the 2, 5 and 10 by standing up for their teammate and simply run a guy for 2 minutes interference just like Exelby got for his cheap shot on Hemsky. Progress? Not in my eyes.

  • Hippy

    Ive always said this league is 100% gutless in eliminating the kind of stuff htat would land a regular person in jail for 5 years. Any league that still allows Todd Bertuzzi to play and make millions is run by idiots. Lets take Colin Campbell's kid and put him on the ice against a Hollweg, Bertuzzi, Gauthier or the numerous other piles of scum this league is littered with. Let his kid go against them and see how he enjoys taking a stick to the head or a shoulder to his jaw.

  • Hippy

    Rick wrote:

    Obviously there is no room in the game for hitting people in the head with their sticks so there isn’t much of a discussion there.
    I do take issue with trying to introduce yet another new rule to address such a thing. There are always unintended consequences with this stuff and the game suffers as a result.

    Out of curiousity: how would you address it? Personally, I'd like to see Campbell take it into his own hands to make suspensions for these kinds of incidents heavier, but he's shown an inability to do it over the years.

    Also, what negative consequences do you see taking place?

  • Hippy

    dw wrote:

    I am not defending Coburn’s actions, but if you watch the replay Antropov clearly fakes at Coburn as if he is going to hit him. Coburn reacts and gets his stick up but barely contacts Antropov before he drops to the ice like he was shot.

    Yeah, and I'm not trying to defend Antropov here. In most of these cases, the player who gets hit did something nasty beforehand too, which always seems to cloud the issue.

    Also, what actually transpired here isn't as bad as these other incidents, but I do think it's something that needs to be eliminated.

  • Hippy

    SorrQuinn wrote:

    Let me be the first to use the phrase ‘pansification’. Not that I think it has any place in this discussion, but I’m sure it will come up as a way to demean the point that over the top aggression belongs in the game.

    Sorry, that should read, 'demean opposition to the point that over the top aggression belongs in the game.'

    Sheesh

  • Hippy

    Let me be the first to use the phrase 'pansification'. Not that I think it has any place in this discussion, but I'm sure it will come up as a way to demean the point that over the top aggression belongs in the game. Despite the fact that it annually injures star/role players and elevates the importance of a Tootoo or Avery or another goon and lets them know they are an integral part of the game.

  • Hippy

    Obviously there is no room in the game for hitting people in the head with their sticks so there isn't much of a discussion there.

    I do take issue with trying to introduce yet another new rule to address such a thing. There are always unintended consequences with this stuff and the game suffers as a result.

  • Hippy

    Don't get me wrong, I am not defending Coburn's actions, but if you watch the replay Antropov clearly fakes at Coburn as if he is going to hit him. Coburn reacts and gets his stick up but barely contacts Antropov before he drops to the ice like he was shot. If he had actually made serious contact with Antropov's head you would have seen his head move more than it did. This was more a case of "bait and dive" than Boulerice on Kesler.