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The real predatory hit in the NHL

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Liam Horrobin
10 months ago
Every hockey fan has their eyes on the Stanley Cup playoffs this time of year.
On Monday night, fans were gifted a game seven match between the New Jersey Devils and New York Rangers, one of the biggest rivalries in the league. At the same time the Devils won 4-0 and moved on to the second round for the first time in ten years, the headlines surrounded a Rangers defenceman.
Jacob Trouba laid a punishing hit on Devils forward Timo Meier, momentarily leaving him motionless on the ice. Trouba made direct contact with Meier’s head catching him in a vulnerable position while crossing the Rangers’ blueline. Fortunately, Meier returned to the game, but that didn’t stop the conversation around the hit. 
While the hit was deemed legal but the NHL rule book, which is not black and white, do hits of that nature still belong in the NHL? 
My response is yes. In this scenario, Trouba had three options.
  1. Make the hit
  2. Use his stick to trip him
  3. Move out of the way
Realistically, two and three are not options that ever crossed Trouba’s mind, and why should they? While his hit was brutally punishing, he never left his feet nor moved his body to make contact with the head. The main takeaway from the play is that players need to keep their heads up and not put themselves in a vulnerable position. Players are protected in many ways in the league; however, sometimes, you’ve got to protect yourself.
It makes sense why this hit made the headlines. It was the only game on television that night, a big rivalry and a game seven. However, more conversations need to be about the other predatory hits in the first round.
Checking from behind became a repeating offence in round one. In the Los Angeles Kings and Edmonton Oilers’ series, Adrian Kempe shoved Evan Bouchard in the numbers into the boards in game four. Then, one game later, Sean Durzi cross-checked Warren Foegele into the boards from behind in a game late in the third period and out of reach for the Kings.
The worst was the Jordan Eberle hit on Andrew Cogliano, two former Edmonton Oilers. The incident resulted in Cogliano suffering a fractured neck , which put him out of the playoffs. All three hits received two-minute penalties, but was that enough?
On Oilersnation Everyday with Tyler Yaremchuk, former NHLer Shawn Belle had this to say about the cross-checking from behind, specifically Durzi’s hit.
“If he grabs him and guides him into the boards, you are probably more comfortable saying that was a legitimate hockey play. You can see he (Warren Foegele) is about to make a move, and he (Sean Durzi) cross-checks him directly in the back. That is the stuff right there, especially because it is two feet away from the wall. That area is where serious injuries can happen, and you have to take it out of the game. Rewind back years ago, and we saw a similar incident versus the Anaheim Ducks. It does not need to be part of the game.”
Throughout the 2022-23 regular season, the NHL did not suspend anybody for checking from behind. There were a couple of boarding suspensions handed out to Montreal Canadiens forward Juraj Slafkovsky and Josh Anderson.
Unlike Trouba, each player had multiple different options rather than the one they chose. The positioning of the defenceless opponent could have resulted in more than Cogliano leaving the postseason early. Instead, the Department of player safety remains silent on the matter, which is ridiculous.
Fans from around The Nation Network gave their thoughts on which hits were worse on Twitter yesterday:
There were plenty more responses asking the NHL to address the issue. The league would be crazy not to clamp done on the matter, too, and what are they waiting for? Somebody to get significantly hurt before they take care of this? Hockey is a dangerous sport but the NHL can make it safer for its players. Hits like Trouba’s are happening every week, but we are seeing defenceless players hit into the boards too often.

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