Sidney Crosby is finally back on the ice, doing what he does best: wowing us with his sheer talent, even with two months of rust coating his joints.
Arguably the biggest draw to those outside of the hockey world is the Winter Classic, and that’s pretty incontestable. And for those new viewers tuning in, they saw this play on the most visible player the NHL has, and probably the only player in the game they had any kind of familiarity with.
I understand that this wasn’t particularly vicious or intentional. I don’t think Dave Steckel meant to make that hit. The two just kind of ran into each other, and Crosby got a face full of shoulder.
But that wasn’t the hit that folded Crosby. This was two players looking down ice after the puck, and making incidental contact. It was widely believed that he had sustained some kind of head injury on this play. Yet he went on to play against the Lightning in his next game. Good news for the League, right?
That hit was intentional. You can clearly see Hedman eye balling the puck, that is no longer near Sid as he finishes his check to 87’s back. This play is ridiculous to me. I understand that players should finish their hits. I don’t want that out of the game. I want hits directly to a defenseless players back out of the game. I want elbows to the head out of the game.
I want that hit out of my game. That isn’t hockey.
Looking back at the Hedman play, it kind of blows my mind honestly Sidney and Stamkos are the guys putting people in the seats for that game. Not Victor Hedman. I know he was a high draft pick, and is an important player to the Tampa Bay Lightning but he isn’t putting a lot of people in the seats.
But these kinds of players are very rarely punished from within, as has been pointed out numerous times. What kind of impact would a team have if they started imposing their own suspensions to players who played recklessly, instead of rewarding them with contract extensions and praise behind the scenes (coughMattCookecough)?
What is the League going to do if Sidney Crosby does go the route of Eric Lindros or Marc Savard or Pat Lafontaine? What happens if five years from now we are talking about how good Crosby could have been like we talk about Lindros now? He couldn’t drive a car for a month after the Hedman play. That’s scary to me.
How many important players is the League going to allow itself to lose in the name of the game, before it realizes that losing these players will cost us the game entirely? Do you think that not losing guys like Savard to a life of memory loss might be worth taking headshots out of the game entirely for? It may very well come to that – and it is a question we have to be prepared to answer as hockey fans. That kind of blanket ban was not positively embraced during the recent GM meetings, but this is usually the case.
I am not asking for a knee jerk reaction. But teams should start taking a bit of responsibility. The NHL, in all their infinite wisdom, can’t seem to get most hockey calls right. There needs to be a realization that this is the case, and perhaps some self-policing. It’s been noted by several prominent voices that if a player pulls up on a check with the safety of his fellow player in mind, he is going to get an earful from Coach. This can not continue to be the case.
At this point, what happens if Ovie – Hockey Gods forbid – blows a knee going for a loose puck? We have already lost Geno. Then what? No Sid, no Malkin, no Ovie. It gives me the willies just thinking about it, and it should do the same to you. I’ll watch those playoff games, sure. And you probably will too. But incidental injuries keep enough good players out of the game. We don’t need elbows to the face to add to that number (last nights incident with Todd Bertuzzi included.)
It’s a common line of thought that these things wouldn’t happen if players would just respect each other. It seems pretty clear to me that a lot of them do. But all it takes is one spiked drink to ruin the party for everyone.
Thanks for reading – what do you think the NHL needs to do to curb these kinds of hits? Are they overreacting as is? Should they do more? What role should teams have in this sort of thing? Let me know what you think down below.
Until next time… thanks, and good luck.
Franklin Steele has been publishing hockey columns online since 2011 and has been watching and playing since the age of six. More than six million people have read his work, and he has more than 3,500 bylines to his name. He joins The Hockey Writers after five years with FanRag Sports, and his work also appears on WingsNation.com and ChicagoSportsColumn.com.
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