Brad Marchand’s Hit on Sami Salo: Not Clean, Not Clipping

Brad Marchand (Icon SMI)

The Boston Bruins’ Brad Marchand was given a five-minute major and ejected from Saturday afternoon’s game versus Vancouver for a low hit on the Canucks’ Sami Salo. The major penalty turned out to be significant as the Canucks scored twice, including the eventual game-winner off the stick of the young Cody Hodgson in Vancouver’s 4-3 win in Boston.

Of course, much of the talk after the game centered around two possible (and significant) suspensions for the defending champs. The first, a leaving-the-bench incident (resulting in an ejection) perpetrated by Milan Lucic early in the first period won’t result in additional discipline from the League. Lucic was given a game misconduct which was rescinded by the League after analysis. If upheld, the misconduct would’ve resulted in an automatic ten-game ban.

Marchand won’t be so lucky, in all likelihood. His hit on Salo has drawn the ire of many and he’s earned a phone conversation with NHL Disciplinarian, Brendan Shanahan as a result. Vancouver GM Mike Gillis called the incident “…a dirty hit by a dirty player.”

Vancouver won’t soon forget this incident, or the time Marchand hit Daniel Sedin similarly in game four of the Cup Finals.

Compounding the issue is Salo’s apparent injury status. The big Canuck defender apparently won’t be in the lineup when the ‘Nucks take on the Panthers in Sunrise, Florida tomorrow.

Unfortunately, lost in the self-righteous uproar of Bruins-haters is the simple fact that this was not clipping. The NHL rules clipping to be:

“44.1 Clipping – Clipping is the act of throwing the body, from any direction, across or below the knees of an opponent.”

As is clearly shown in the slow-motion replay, Marchand hits Salo well above his knees, mid-thigh sending the Canuck defenseman tumbling. Clipping was absolutely the wrong call. If that was “knee-area” – the “knee area” apparently extends farther than one would imagine.

Still, some are arguing for interference or tripping. Well, Marchand was the closest man to the puck and his stick was mere inches from possession before the hit was delivered. Hard to argue calling interference on someone who has (or very nearly has) possession– and even harder to argue for call for interference when the ‘interfered-with’ player is attempting to check the perpetrator.

There’s certainly an argument to be made that this was dirty, regardless of rule violation. I can understand that. Personally, I don’t see this as a ‘clean’ collision. But without any specific rule violation is it really deserving of supplemental discipline? Perhaps.

Marchand himself acquiesced to the decision the referees made to eject him: “… It’s a five-minute major. It was the right call – he was hurt and I was ejected from the game.”

Bruins’ Head Coach Claude Julien defended Marchand in an interview after the game, saying:

“… They have to protect themselves. Whether it’s the right way or the wrong way, … I’d rather have a guy take a two-minute penalty than turn his back to the play, stand up straight, and then get his face knocked into the glass and be out for maybe the rest of the year with a concussion, or maybe end his career like [Marc] Savard … In my opinion, if guys start protecting themselves the way Marchand did, maybe guys will stop taking runs at other guys…”

Standing up to take the hit might have been the more ‘noble’ decision, but Julien has a point: Would you rather your player gets clobbered by an opponent looking to make a big impact – or duck the hit and be branded ‘dirty’ by the ultimate arbiters of NHL righteousness (Gillis).

Looking at some ‘legal’ hip-checks, it’s hard to draw a definitive line between legal and illegal. Just take a peek at Keith Ballard’s hit on Jamie McGinn in the 2011 Western Conference Finals Game 4:

Now as I’m sure everyone knows, Vancouver is a beacon of just and fair play, but other than the angle (Marchand’s hit was more midsection to Ballard’s hip) and possession differences – is one that much dirtier than the next? Ballard’s knees actually appear far more bent leading up to the impact and he seems to make closer contact with that ill-defined ‘knee region’.

Marchand is a ‘repeat offender’ by NHL definition. His (definitively) illegal elbow to the head of Columbus’ R.J. Umberger cost him two games last March. He could get up to five games as a result of this collision. Shanahan’s in a tough place. Anything other than throwing the book at Marchand will cause significant uproar as indignant tinfoil-hat-wearers around the League presume a pro-Bruins bias.

Marchand’s collision with Salo wasn’t clean. It was a bad decision by the Bruins’ Honey Badger and will probably cost him a few games (expect three or four) and make him lighter in the wallet. It will continue to ‘endear’ him to opponents and further his reputation as one of the ‘cheaper’ players in the NHL.

Still, twenty-nine out of thirty markets hated the guy before yesterday’s “clipping” incident. I doubt that will change much as a result.






53 thoughts on “Brad Marchand’s Hit on Sami Salo: Not Clean, Not Clipping”

  1. That’s actually a very good comparison, thanks for putting that video of a Canucks player making the “same” hit, I’ll help you to realize the difference; the canuck player was trying to stop prior to and during the impact, and trying to turn away from a charging opponent, and ducked out of the way, a defensive move… Marchand stepped into and under his opponent who was slowing and turning away in a defensive manner, Marchand delivered a predatory attack, as it was deemed by the appropriate unbiased third party professional and expert opinion, in an unbiased manner… not by a biased Bruins fan pretending to be indifferent.

  2. That’s actually a very good comparison, thanks for putting that video of a Canucks player making the “same” hit, I’ll help you to realize the difference; the canuck player was trying to stop prior to and during the impact, and trying to turn away from a charging opponent, and ducked out of the way, a defensive move… Marchand stepped into and under his opponent who was slowing and turning away in a defensive manner, Marchand delivered a predatory attack, as it was deemed by the appropriate unbiased third party professional and expert opinion, in an unbiased manner… not by a biased Bruins fan pretending to be indifferent.

  3. Marchand made a bad decision, and he’s paying the price for it, but the Canucks should really stop being all butthurt about losing the Cup and just play hockey. Hey, maybe that lack of focus is a reason the Bruins won instead of them, because it seems like they’re too busy worrying and complaining about other players. Bruins players have been injured by “dirty” hits too, but you know what the Bruins didn’t do? Complain about it in the press and call people names. Save it for the ice.

  4. No rule in the rulebook against what Marchand did and I worked as a referee. Ballard throws a mirror imaged hit on Campbell earlier in the game and the only reason Marchand was suspended and Ballard wasn’t penalized was because Campbell wasn’t hurt and Salo was, simple as that!

    • Noone really believes you’re a referee Reed, if you are it is not in the NHL, AHL, “A” or any other legitimate league and probably not certified if you actually think the two hits have anything more in common than that they are on the ice.

    • …was that a rhetorical question? I just can’t stop myself from answering… because if he told the whole truth it would not support his argument.

  5. Your 2nd video that you show for comparison is no comparison at all.  Mcginn has the puck, although he does not play it in order to try and deliver a big hit to Ballard. 

    Ballard does not dive at his knees in the same fashion that Marchand dove at Salo’s knees.  Ballard leads with a proper hip check.  Marchand dives at Salo’s knees with his shoulder.  The two hits are not similar.

  6. stop the marchand video at exactly the 1:00 mark. if you can’t identify why that is an illegal and dirty hit, then you clearly have a biased opinion. just noticing now that i’m posting to a blog written by the senior bruins correspondent. no wonder you all seem so confused.

  7. Since when is submarining someone to avoid contact allowed?  A dirty hit by a dirty player, whether you call it clipping, interference, intent to injure or whatever.  Deserved more than 5 games.  One day he will get what he actually deserves if he keeps trying to injure opponents.  He is in the category of Ulf Samuelsson and Bryan Marchment.

  8. Hey Bob, read the article and enjoyed your stance on it. However, I do want to bring up the rest of the clipping rule, which states:

    A player may not deliver a check in a “clipping” manner, nor lower
    his own body position to deliver a check on or below an opponent’s

    An illegal “low hit” is a check that is delivered by a player or
    goalkeeper who may or may not have both skates on the ice, with his sole
    intent to check the opponent in the area of his knees. A player may not
    lower his body position to deliver a check to an opponent’s knees.

    While many have debated where the hit was applied, it was obviously around the area of the knees (as indicated by the rule) as Marchand hit him slightly above the knees, maybe even mid-thigh as you suggested. However, I believe that Marchand figured into the action of clipping because he delivered the check in a clipping “manner” as stated by the rule. Sami Salo does not have a reputation for being a cheap shot artist/dirty player and Marchand is claiming he ducked for safety precautions, but Salo, in my eyes, has never been a dangerous player and one to sweepingly avoid the way that Marchand did. After all, Marchand didn’t think that Salo was so dangerous to avoid him in the same manner approximately 15 seconds before, when they initially collided.

    I know that my view can come across as narrow sometimes and this is not a personal affront on you at all Bob, just trying to stimulate the discussion. However, when a player is trying to “protect himself” isn’t it more of an instinctual play to get your elbow or stick up high instead of low balling the opponent?

    Like Lukas said, it seemed as though Marchand was going to play the puck before bailing at the last second. By doing so, he lowered his body and delivered a check to the area around the knees. I can’t say that the punishment doesn’t fit the offense as Marchand is a repeat offender. It would’ve been tough for Shanny not to give Marchand the suspension in this case.

    • The problem I have with this is the definition of “knee area.” As much as you’re correct – the rule does have more to it than a simple hit at or below the knees, the nebulous “knee area” could mean anything from toes to nose as far as we can tell. I know no one’s interpreting it that way – but what’s to say the “knee area” doesn’t extend five millimeters or five inches above the knee. Of course, either way, the Marchand hit on Salo doesn’t qualify as far as I see.

      There are plenty of hip checks and “duck checks” like this one that have gone unpunished, which, other than the even less-knowable “intent” have the same principle elements. With the revelation today that Marchand & the Bruins actually asked for clarification on these types of hits pre-season and got the go-ahead … well, it only muddies the waters further.As I said in the article, I don’t see this as a “clean” hit as far as I’m concerned … I’d have much preferred to see him square up and take it but as far as I can tell, as the rule is defined, it’s not clipping.

  9. Did little Marchand hurt that poor big player?  Shame on you Marchand…….ha ha ha.  Maybe the people of Vancouver should riot and burn their city to the ground……………..again.

    • If little sissy Marchand can’t play with the big boys without being a cheap shot maybe he should take up baseball, the all-american sport where he can get big with steroids instead. 

  10. this is a terrible analysis of the play. it is clearly clipping, and the contact was directed at salo’s knees. watch both replays CLOSELY. there are obvious and important differences. in the ballard hit, once he prepares for the hit, ballard’s legs are basically motionless, and hold fairly steady straight up and down, with his big ass staying high in the air. now look again at the marchand hit. he drives through salo’s legs with a ton of speed and instead of keeping his legs straight and his ass up he drops down to one knee.

    c’mon boys. this really isn’t rocket science. 5 games was deserved.

  11. It’s also important to note that the difference between the Marchand and Ballard hits were that Ballard looked at McGinn and made a calculated decision to under cut him.  Marchand more or less sensed the pressure and made a snap decision to protect himself.  While it’s easy for the Bruins’ haters to say it was a dirty move, if that had been a harder hitting defenseman than Salo, Marchand could have easily ended up with his face smashed in on a dirty hit from behind.

    As a guy that’s played defense for over 20 years, I can tell you that Sami Salo did not come in with control of his body.  He transferred all his weight upstairs for a big shoulder-to-shoulder hit, locked his knees and had no weight on his skates at the time of impact, thus making it easy to lose his balance.  He also aimed to stop his momentum at the spot of the collision with Marchand, as opposed to trying to drive his momentum through the hit like he’s supposed to.  I agree with the analysis that it was a borderline play.  I don’t, however, agree with the assessment that since Salo got hurt, it somehow warrants a big suspension.  Salo is a porcelain doll and, at some point, he needs to reassess how he approaches the game and why he continually puts himself in a position to get hurt.

    Keep in mind that both players have the right to protect themselves.  Marchand chose to protect himself, Salo chose not to.  Salo was the aggressor on this play.  He was in full control of what went on as he was the one with the momentum and he was the one whose eyes saw the play develop.  He lost control of the play by losing control of his body and subsequently got injured.

  12. If you feel you need to protect yourself from perfectly legal bodychecks, you shouldn’t be in the NHL. 

  13. It’s fairly ridiculous to say he was intending to injure in my opinion. He opted not to get destroyed by Salo which was clearly going to happen had he played the puck. He didn’t go out of his way to hip check him, it was a reaction to a massive dude barrelling down on him and it was effective. The only difference between his hit and Ballard’s was his size in comparison to Salo’s. Sorry Vancouver fans, its the pot calling the kettle black here if you cast stones at Marchand. That being said, if you call this intent to injure just go watch basketball. This is hockey.

    • have you ever played hockey? perhaps a better question: have you ever seen sami salo play hockey? did you even watch the play? he was barely going to nudge marchand on that play, let alone “destroy” him or “barrel down” on him. let me guess: you’re the kind of casual boston hockey fan who wears his red sox hat during the stanley cup finals?

  14. To the King,

    WTF do you know about hockey. Look at where the puck is. Does Sami have it. Noooo!! He’s trying to get to it and turns to face a check (although it should be interference). And yes, Marchand’s head was bum height. So does the head need to be below the knees to call it clipping??? 
    Marchand got hit hard in the same spot not a minute before and chose this time to take the man out. This is not a hockey play from my days. Shanahan got it spot on.
    Came across this blog by chance, but sure as H won’t read anything by Bob Mand again. How can you defend this type of play.
    Unfortunately they will call it now, but when the playoffs begin the whistles will go silent and the skilled teams will be bowled over.

    S. King

  15. The NHL has as much credibility as the WWF.  Marchand did nothing different than Ballard and Hamhuis have done repeatedly without drawing a call.  The referees and the league are interpreting the rules differently for different players. The NHL needs to make an appropriate rule and apply it uniformly. Personally, I think they should define clipping as deliberately lowering one’s hips and body to hit another player. I would hope they would like to avoid having players tossed on their heads. Why are they using this ancient discriminator of  “at or below the knees?”  

    • first of all, the hits are very clearly quite different than the ballard and hamhuis hits in question.

      second, what language would you rather have them use instead of “at or below the knees”? i don’t know what could possibly be more clear than that unless you want them to break out a frackin’ tape measure.

  16. There will always be the Bruin haters especially now with all the wins.
    Over 30 suspensions in the NHL this season already but the spotlight is on the Bruins what’s new?
    Best to get it all out of the way now long before the playoffs.

  17. Perception is reality, even for the insane.  You have to be insane to defend a hit like that.  It was clear that Marchand elected not to take the puck and to injure Salo.  Look at the entire clip and you will see that they collided earlier, with Marchand (as usual) taking a swipe at Salo after the collision.  The Bruins play a form of hockey that should be completely eliminated.  We should focus on skill rather than back alley tactics. 

    • How is it a hit when Marchand wasn’t moving?  Did little Marchand hurt that big player?  Aawww, the poor little guy.  That’s pathetic.  I am not even a real hockey fan, but I don’t see the big deal with that.  The guy was coming in for a hit and Marchand ducked. 

      No wonder I don’t watch this crap any more.

  18. The biggest problem for me was that Marchand acted as though he was going to play the puck before ducking, sending Sami Salo over him.

    Personally, I believe it was very dirty.

  19. anan – where do you come off making a comment like that. “most of the players on that team don’t deserve to be alive.” Are you serious? It does not suprise me that you see nothing wrong with dirty hits that can compromise a players health and career when you have a mentality like that. You are disgusting.

    • Wow, I agree TL.  Hockey is a game.  People who wish other people are dead over a game are seriously twisted in some way. I like to get involved in friendly banter with my friends, but I would never wish harm or hurt someone because they disagree with me. By the way anan, if you are disrespecting Canadian players, you do realize Marchand IS Canadian and so are most of the Bruins players.  Not too bright are you fella.

      • Just a quick note to mention that the original comment was removed.
        Wishing harm to anyone is never tolerated here at THW (other than a good stiff check). We won’t hesitate to ban somebody that doesn’t show a little courtesy and respect.

  20. You’re entitled to your opinion, but this is just a brutal analysis. Marchand was intending to injure Salo on the play, there’s no doubt about it. Whether it was directly and the knees, or a bit above, he clipped Salo down low which is a completely gutless play with the intention of injuring him. Nicely done, Brad, mission accomplished.

  21. Thanks for detailed speculations, you’re a good writer and analyst! One thing i wonder: Salo is twice as tall as Braddie-boy – should they pay attention to the giant’s knee-line or the hobbit’s bending angle?

  22. There is favouritism going on with the Bruins. There is no doubt. Let’s just look at the number of players they have put on long term injured reserve with their dirty play. How many suspensions have they received?

  23. Salo turned at the last minute and actually goes backwards into Marchand…..the laws of physics go into effect and he topples over Marchand!! Marchand was at bum height when Salo contacted him……wtf is the call for??

  24. ya and clearly salo moved his shoulder in for the head shot sry but someone was going 2 get wrecked there brad just dodged it

    • that is just simply not true. salo made no motion to hit his head. in fact he was practically turning away from any contact. he’s had enough experience with injuries and concussions that he doesn’t seek it out.

  25. Watch the replay again.  Marchand clearly ducks under and contacts the back of Salo’s legs AT THE KNEES.

    • You are confusing his thigh with his knees.
      How was the Ballard hit any different? That video shows an awfully good view of contact with McGinn’s knee.

  26. Good article, I enjoyed it very much. Just have to point out, though, that you cannot ‘center around’ something . . I see this all the time. Obviously, you meant ‘centers on’ . . It’s not your fault, though. Things like that become overused, while misused, in sports writing. Nothing is as bad as how prevalent ‘ON the season’ or ‘ON the night’ has become . . for example: “Crosby has 30 goals on the season.” This is such incorrect usage, and the awful thing is that sports writers and broadcasters use it constantly! When did maddening trend this begin?How about “Crosby has 30 goals this season.” Isn’t that better?

  27. Wow, that Ballard hit is a thing of beauty. If Marchand could make a hit like that on a player that has the puck, I would want to shake his hand. If you cant tell the differnce, you dont know hockey, or you have some other agenda.

  28. Eye for an eye…agreed, but upon searching “sami salo dirty”, all I get are bar down clappers from the top of the circle on the PP. Clear example of trying to injure, not a hockey play at all. I can qualify this by saying, I do own a BM#63 home Bruins jersey and I love him on my team, but im kind of embarrassed . BM hit him low and maybe ended a 36 year old Finn’s career…..Salo is made of glass remember. Lets play hockey, not that crap I watched yesterday.

  29. I can’t see that the hit by Marchand was worthy of even two minutes. Any suspension given will be based on alleged reputation than any misdeed. What a farce!

  30. Call the hit what you wish, it was dirty, and was with intent. Who really cares about what happened in the Cup Finals, everyone keeps making reference to all the calls, or mis-calls from June. This is January 2012 and the hit happened Jan.07 The focus should be on getting dirty hits like that out of our game. Look again at the video, he had no intention of playing the puck, or to defend a potential hit from Salo. Wind it back now; Salo hit him earlier in the game and Marchand didn’t like it. I won’t take sides on any dirty play, my team or not, but history should dictate the terms of what Shanny has to do, and I hope it is the right thing?
    Julien’s comments really set a poor example for young players, it’s like he condones that type dangerous play, shame on him.

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