On October 13th, Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid put a dirty hit on Dallas Star’s defenseman Johnny Oduya. The question is: why are so few people talking about it? Could it be that was also the night he scored his first NHL goal? Or is it because the NHL needs wants to downplay anything negative about the possible next chosen one of hockey? It sure looks like McDavid’s hit Oduya in the back on the numbers, directly from behind, and thrust Oduya into the boards head first. Fortunately Oduya was okay. Watch the hit here:
McDavid did not even get a two-minute penalty. This is the exact type of hit hockey players have been taught not to make since they first began to check. Heck, it should actually be used to show kids and adults how not to hit. This type of hit can end careers and cannot be tolerated. Surely with the renewed emphasis on protecting players and possible head injuries, one would think the NHL Department of Player Safety would take a long, hard look at it. They are not putting up with much this year, already having suspended Raffi Torres, Tyson Barrie and Jordan Tootoo for dirty hits. Yet, nothing happened. Let me repeat that: the league did not deem this hit even worthy of a hearing.
Can you imagine the outrage if Oduya did that to McDavid instead? I don’t care if McDavid is the next Wayne Gretzky, Sidney Crosby or whatever. This hit was simply unacceptable. Was it a mistake? Yes it was. Is he a first time offender? Yes he is. Was Oduya able to get up and continue on? Thankfully yes. I know McDavid is certainly not Torres in any way, shape or form. But, the message has to be consistent regarding unacceptable and dangerous hits. If you hit someone from behind and they go head first into the boards, regardless of intent, you should have to sit the next game, or two or more. Either that, or we need to put “STOP” on the back of NHL sweaters as well.
If the NHL is serious about player safety, then the rules need to be enforced regardless of player, history or injury result. You want to send the proper message to all players at all levels? Then sit McDavid, even if for one game. I don’t care what anyone says, to an outsider like me who has no rooting interest in either team involved, the NHL Department of Player Safety blew this call. It smacks of favoritism no matter how you cut it.
The only rational explanation I can think of regarding the lack of a hearing/suspension was that Oduya got back up and continued on skating. He apparently suffered no injury as a result of the hit. Like I said, he was very fortunate. There is no way the NHL Department of Player Safety would admit to that reasoning, so we are left to speculate. Unfortunately their silence speaks the strongest message to fans and players of all ages alike: Don’t do this, but if you do, don’t hurt anyone. Oh and if you are a star player, we’ll let it pass. After all, we can’t have another P.R. nightmare on our hands now can we?
Rick is fortunate to live off the I-90 hockey corridor where both his beloved Chicago Blackhawks and Rockford IceHogs (aka Baby Hawks) call home. Hockey has been in his blood since the early 1970’s when he saw his first Blackhawks game at the “Old Barn”. His favorite player is Keith Magnuson followed closely by Bobby Hull (old school!). When not covering the greatest sport, he enjoys watching live music and has even been known to join his beloved bands on stage for a song or two. Follow Rick on Twitter via @HawksStrength