As most of you know, last night Dan Paille destroyed Raymond Sawada with a big open ice hit. Sawada went down awkwardly on his head and shoulder, but left the ice on his own power. He didn’t return to the game. Before I get into my opinion and ask for yours, I will say that I am very happy that Sawada was able to get up and hope the injury isn’t too severe.
The repercussions of this hit were a match penalty and four game suspension for Paille. To me, this is ludicrous. I thought the match penalty alone was too much. However, I have also talked to people who are on the other side of the fence, so I thought I would open it up to discussion.
First off, I will say that I am not a big fan of physical play in hockey. I hate when defenceman interfere with forechecking forwards on the dump in, I hate the cross-checks in front of the net and in the corners, and I hate guys who hit with their arms up. But, I am a big fan of the open ice hit. If a guy has his head down, he shouldn’t all of a sudden become unhittable. It will completely change the dynamics of the game as players will no longer fear cutting through the trolley tracks because they know they can’t get hit. This gives them full access to the prime real estate in the slot. In the case of the Paille hit, it looks like Sawada still had reasonable control of the puck when Paille committed to making the hit. By the time Paille hit him, yes Sawada had lost the puck, but it was too late for Paille to get out of the way. Paille made a great hockey play. He defended valuable territory with his body. Sawada made a bad play. he cut through the middle with his head down. I’m not condoning players trying to hurt others, but you can’t play timid either.
I am also willing to give Paille the benefit of the doubt here. He is not a dirty hockey player. Before last night, he had 77 PIMS in 293 career games. On that one play last night, he received more penalty minutes than he did in 74 games last season.
I know concussions are a problem and it is something the NHL is worried about, but this is getting ridiculous. It is the goons like Boogaard out there head-hunting that are the problem, not players like Dan Paille trying to help their team win a hockey game by taking the body in the slot.
I would love to hear what you guys have to say on the topic.