There was a couple of hits this weekend that resulted in serious injury. Tuomo Ruutu was suspended three games for his hit from behind on Darcy Tucker, while Mike Richards escaped punishment for his open ice hit on David Booth. Let’s get the panels reaction.
If you didn’t see the hits here are the links:
I thought the Tucker hit just plain bad luck. Players go and give guys a shot from behind all of the time after they make a pass or are digging for the puck. This case was a little different because Tucker was not braced for the hit at all. You never like to see a guy get hurt but Tucker is partly at fault here. Sure Ruutu could have let up if he saw that Tucker wasn’t paying attention, but playing the game at half speed will get you a one way ticket out of town.
The Booth hit, on the other hand, was a blatant cheap shot. Richards had plenty of time to see that Booth didn’t have the puck and could not see him coming. There was no reason for him to lower his shoulder into him like that. However, the precedent has been set in the past that the NHL generally does not suspend players for these kinds of hits, so I wasn’t surprised to see Richards let off the hook
The Tucker hit was not as dramatic as other boarding calls have been in recent years, so I actually didn’t think anything of it at first. However, any hit against the boards where a player blatantly isn’t paying attention (and the hitter has clearly had him in his sights for awhile) is worthy of a second look, so a three-game suspension sounds about right.
The Booth hit was huge, but it seemed pretty clean to me. Richards hit with his shoulder, not his elbow, Booth wasn’t paying attention (though he was going so fast it wouldn’t’ve made a difference anyway), and Richards didn’t lift off more than any normal hit in the NHL. Stevens on Kariya anyone?”
I’m very surprised that Mike Richards wasn’t suspended for his hit on David Booth. Wait am I? Mike Richards is a player that fans pay money to come see right? Well than why should he be suspended? With all the talk about players’ track records in these situations (and Richards does in fact have one), the NHL has proven to have a track record of its own: not suspending its star players.
Exhibit 1: The NHL taking no disciplinary action on Evgeni Malkin following his instigator penalty in game 2 of last year’s Stanley Cup. Finals. What happened to the automatic one game suspension rule?
Exhibit 2: Alexander Ovechkin gets a slap on wrist for his slew foot in the same week Evgeny Artyukhin is suspended 3 games for the same crime.
Not enough evidence? How about Chris Simon being suspended 30 games for stepping on Jarkko Ruutu’s leg, while the Hart Trophy winning Chris Pronger wasn’t suspended for the same act until Simon complained unfair treatment and the NHL was forced to slap the Pronger with an 8 game suspension. Sure, the argument here is that Simon has a history, but wasn’t Pronger the guy who was voted by his peers as the league’s dirtiest player?
I don’t think that Richards is a dirty player nor do I think he intended to hurt Booth in anyway, but in a fast-paced sport like hockey, especially at its highest level, these types of plays happen. The bottom line is that if the NHL is serious about getting rid of headshots, they should institute an automatic suspension whether the headshot was intended or not, whether the player has a track record or not, and whether its Sidney Crosby or Colton Orr giving OR receiving the hit. Implement a rule like this and players will be more cautious in picking their spots to throw the big hit and head shots will be a thing of the past.
Ruutu’s hit was deliberate with the intent to injure and has been illegal for many years in hockey and that was deserved of the suspension that he received, at minimum. Booth, however, had just gotten rid of the puck and made a quick cut to his right leaving him extremely vulnerable for a hit – I would’ve taken it no question. There’s a reason you don’t admire your pass. The issue here is that Booth was crouched a bit so Richards’ shoulder made direct contact with his head. Of course I want to see hits to the head eliminated from hockey. Anybody who has experienced a concussion knows that it’s no picnic. Hockey is the fastest game on Earth and a few inches in either direction, at the speed Richards and Booth were travelling, can mean the difference between a shoulder or a chin.
The NHL Rulebook clearly states that:
Body position shall be determined as the player skating in front of or beside his opponent, traveling in the same direction. A player is allowed the ice he is standing on (body position) and is not required to move in order to let an opponent proceed. A player may “block” the path of an opponent provided he is in front of his opponent and moving in the same direction. The last player to touch the puck, other than the goalkeeper, shall be considered the player in possession. The player deemed in possession of the puck may be checked legally, provided the check is rendered immediately following his loss of possession.
Looking even more closely, we see that Booth is clearly still in position when he starts to cut right.
Then we see that the puck still hasn’t reached its intended destination before Booth gets walloped. This all happens in a matter of nanoseconds and it’s clear to see that the referee made the call he felt was most appropriate at the time but the NHL was right in not suspending Richards. There is no penalty for a shoulder to the head, although I’m all in favour of one.
What do you think?