It’s a known fact that hockey is a rough sport filled with hard hits and missing teeth. But, when does a hard hit become a cheap hit? The NHL playoffs have been spoiled by dirty hits and despicable players. And even worse officiating.
In Game 1 of the Western Conference Quarterfinal series in Nashville, Nashville Predator defenseman Shea Weber slammed Detroit forward, Henrik Zetterberg’s head into glass. Such plays are unsportsmanlike and barred from the league.
There was no apparent injury, but such hits can result in concussions or even death. Rather than serving some sort of suspension for the blow, NHL Senior Vice President of Player Safety and Hockey Operations Brendan Shanahan decided to fine Weber. He was fined $2,500 which is the maximum amount allowed under the NHL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement. A fine of $2,500 is not enough compensation for a potentially fatal hit. A three-game suspension seems more appropriate for such a blatant hit, but that consequence was given to a player who hit a goalie unintentionally.
In Game 2 of the Western Conference Quarterfinal series featuring the Chicago Blackhawks and the Phoenix Coyotes, Chicago forward Andrew Shaw accidentally hit Phoenix goalie, Mike Smith. Smith was out of the goal-tending area when Shaw skated around the net for the puck and hit him. Smith fell to the ground and stayed there for a few moments, but finished the game. Smith’s dramatic performance was enough to get a five-minute power play and Shaw suspended.
Charging the goalie should not apply to this situation. Smith was out of the net trying to clear the puck while Shaw was pursuing the puck to score for his team. The area behind the goal is less than 11 ft. when the back of the net is considered. When two players are trying to squeeze through this small area they are bound to hit each other, especially when one is skating at full speed. Shaw should not have been suspended three games for an accidental hit, but it’s debatable that his suspension was just to prove a point.
After not properly punishing Weber for his hit on Zetterberg, Shanahan received criticism from a variety of fans and sports media on how he was not serving as a disciplinary to the game. In order to show that he is an effective disciplinary, Shanahan gave Shaw a three game suspension for his hit on Smith.
It’s understandable that Shanahan wants to be an effective disciplinarian, but suspending players for unintentional hits just doesn’t seem fair to the teams during playoff season. If Smith would have been hurt the suspension would have been justified, but he wasn’t so it isn’t.
The most recent confrontation came in Game 3 of the Western Conference Quaterfinals when Coyote forward, Raffi Torres hit Blackhawk forward Marian Hossa. Hossa did not have possession of the puck when Torres left his skates and threw his entire body into Hossa’s leading with his shoulder. Hossa fell to the ground and lay motionless for moments until being carried off the ice in a stretcher by the medical crew.
Naturally, you would think one of the four officials would have seen such a nasty hit, but no. Chicago did not receive a power play. Instead, Phoenix received a 2:00 minute power play as a result of a roughing by a Blackhawks player. Four officials missed the hit by Torres and a Chicago player receives a penalty for defending his team.
After missing such a big hit and seeing replays of it, there should have been a make-up call. Granted, make-up calls aren’t required, but they are encouraged to keep the game as fair as possible. The Blackhawks never received their make-up call and Torres stayed in the game.
Torres hit was finally punished early this afternoon. Shanahan says, he is suspended “indefinitely” and will meet with him for a personal trial to discuss further punishment. While discipline is good, what do the Blackhawks get to compensate for the hit on Hossa yesterday?
The 2012 playoffs have been filled with cheap-shots, bad calls, and poor consequences for players. The NHL needs to look at its officiators and determine if they have what it takes to control the calls of these games. Game officials also need to watch for fake-falling which often earns a power play for the team who “falls.” At this level acting shouldn’t be rewarded since it compromises the integrity of the game. If every player acted helpless and injured after a hit then the game would be full of undeserved penalties. The team with the best actors would win the Stanley Cup instead of the most talented.