Dirty or Not: Evaluating Michael Halmo’s Hit on Nail Yakupov

Jim Neveau, Senior NHL Columnist

If there has been one consistent narrative over the past several NHL seasons, it has been the seeming epidemic of blows to the head that has fallen several big time stars. Whether it be David Steckel’s hit on Sidney Crosby, Matt Cooke’s on Marc Savard, or any of the other slew of players like Nicklas Backstrom who have missed time with concussions, the league has been forced to take a closer look at legislating hits to the head, and while no definitive results have emerged as of yet, the discussion is ongoing.

The NHL isn’t the only league having to deal with the issue of head shots, however. The OHL has its own problems to worry about now in the wake of a hit that its top player took last night. Nail Yakupov, largely considered to be the favorite to be selected number one overall when the NHL holds its Entry Draft in Pittsburgh in June, was hit in the head last night by Michael Halmo of the Owen Sound Attack and was barely able to get off the ice under his own power.

Before we delve into any specifics about the hit, here is a video of the play:

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After seeing the play both in real time and in slow motion, several questions need to be asked. First off, is what Halmo did a suspendable offense? Was there intent to injure on the play? And finally, is Yakupov actually partly to blame for this collision, and what does it tell us about one of the top prospects in the game?

To start with, the hit Halmo laid here was absolutely suspendable. Some will argue that Yakupov ducked into the hit, or something to that effect, but the fact of the matter is that even if Yakupov put himself in a prone position, Halmo still led with his elbow, left his feet, and was certainly deserving of the charging major that he received. He got up a huge burst of speed in order to drive through Yakupov, and when you add all of those factors together, he should be looking at a lengthy ban, and the OHL would be well served to make sure that he missed a good chunk of time.

Going back to the first part of that paragraph, Yakupov did indeed put himself in a prone position. Even though Halmo still put a dangerous and illegal hit on him, Nail has to be more aware of his surroundings when he is on the ice. He held onto the puck for way too long, tried skating across the entire offensive zone, and was looking for an oncoming teammate to pass to instead of looking at the ice ahead of him, which is where Halmo happened to be lying in wait.

All of these actions may be permissible and okay to do in junior hockey, but if Yakupov tries to pull any of those things in an NHL game, he will be absolutely flattened by an opposing player. As many NHL players have learned the hard way, being able to simultaneously find teammates while protecting yourself with on-ice awareness is a necessary skill to have in your arsenal, and by looking at this video, it is pretty clear that Yakupov does not have this tool in his game yet.

Ultimately, however, the real story here isn’t how long a suspension Halmo deserves or whether Yakupov has the hockey smarts necessary to be a star at the next level. The real story here is whether or not Yakupov sustained a serious head injury, and whether or not that’s going to hamper not only his draft stock, but also whether it will have a negative impact on his future career. He has unquestionably one of the best offensive skill sets of anyone that is Draft-eligible this year, and he could be an incredible player at the next level. Seeing him get knocked into oblivion would be bad for the game as a whole, so the hope is that this young man can bounce back and be able to continue his development.


19 thoughts on “Dirty or Not: Evaluating Michael Halmo’s Hit on Nail Yakupov”

  1. It’s a clean hit. The refs called nothing as the play happened. Then as Yakupov was leaving, the linesmen and the refs were conversing and suddenly Halmo is being taken out of the game. What message is the OHL sending? That the refs change their minds because of pulic pressure? Or that because the player, who gave a good hit, is in a Owen Sound jersey he should be called for charging? Hishon and Wilson haven’t played hockey since last years memorial cup game. Where were those calls? How about the Max Domi hit on Artur Gavrus that was a fairly clean hit, but Gavrus left on a stretcher? Domi didn’t get any suspensions. Gavrus was out for about two months with a concussion, and all Yakupov has is a few face lacerations. He has no concussion like symptoms. Who says almost every Saturday night that if your going to go through the middle, to keep your head up!

  2. Wow – 10 game suspension for that?  Try skating  through the middle of the ice like that with your head down in the NHL or ANY lacrosse field, and the trainer will have to run out with a body bag and pick up all of the little pieces…… Nice, clean legal  check.  

  3. ok, the only thing I can say is this,  you cannot play professional, or semi professional hockey in this day and age without getting hurt if you insist on skating through the slot  with your head down counting your skate laces.  Was this a crushing hit, absolutely.  But also absolutely clean.  Elbow in against the chest (watch it in slow motion it IS in), Halmo was in a ‘glide’  he was not striding, so having broken his stride it cannot be charging.  Stick down, and he did not make a ‘jumping’ motion as he came into the check.  I have said  many, many times that Officials need to punish the offense, not the result.  I hate to see anyone get injured, but to punish a player after the fact with a 10 game suspension because of public pressure is wrong.   Especially when the punishments aren’t equal.  Last years Memorial Cup was an absolute joke. If you think this was a vicious hit you need to watch the hit on Joe Hishon from Owen Sound at the Memorial Cup, and check out the supplemental discipline for that one.  What a joke, but the only guy who isn’t laughing is Hishon he hasn’t played since.  In the words of one of my favourite hockey voices of all time, “KEEP YOUR HEAD UP KID!” 

  4. Tell me Jim, what would you rather Mike Halmo do? Poke check him?

    Yakupov’s bent over, head completely down, and reaching for a loose puck two feet inside of the opponents blue line. What would you do Jim if you were Mike Halmo?

    Was the hit big? devastating? Absolutely.
    Was the hit dirty? illegal? Not a chance.

    Why is it that when a player gets completely lit up and perhaps concussed by a massive bodycheck soft writers like yourself always scream “illegal!”?

    Led with his elbow?
    Jim his elbow is completely tucked against his body.

    Left his feet?
    His feet maybe come 2 inches off the ice. Anyone who’s ever played the game knows you come off the ice with momentum of a hit.

    Got a huge burst of speed?
    This is an irresponsible comment on the part of the author trying to support the call of charging on the ice. Halmo had speed/momentum from backchecking, yes. But you can see on the replay he doesn’t even take a stride into Yakupov. He was gliding into the zone. The hit was big. But it wasn’t charging.

    If you don’t like body contact in hockey, Jim, because of times when it can be vicious then that’s OK. But just come out and say that. Don’t take a vicious, yet clean, bodycheck and impose your biased opinion supported with skewed facts just because the hit made you feel uncomfortable.

    This is complete irresponsible journalism, Jim. Thank you for joining the long list of soft, cowardly writers who have never played the game of hockey, yet are so keen on trying to ruin it.

  5. Totally clean. I haven’t bothered with the OHL since last season when Hishon and Wilson went down with head injuries on dirty hits and the other team got a slap on the wrist. It just seems pointless. It’s a joke and I’m not going to waste my money. Who cares.

  6. What are you talking about? Halmo carved to make a hit to a player that was cutting hard to the middle.  Halmo kept his elbow down at his side. A perfect hit! Yakupov won’t last a week in the NHL if he cuts to the net with his head looking at his feet. Shoe gazer!

  7. This was completely clean. There was no lead with the elbow at all. He tried to shoulder him but Yakupov was bent over. I agree with most of David Branch does with suspensions but if Halmo gets the book thrown at him it will be wrong.
    They might as well take hitting out of the game if this is considered illegal. We will have a bunch or Eric Lindors’ playing with their heads down cutting across the trolly tracks. He got away with it growing up because of his size and no one taught him to keep his head up. He paid the price in the NHL because he didn’t learn at young age and in Junior.
    I don’t want to see kids or men get hurt playing this game but until hitting is removed you have to play with your head up and if you don’t than you should expect to get hit like that.
    I hope Yakupov recovers quickly and learns from this and Halmo should be playing in the next game.

  8. Joey Hishon, Garrett Wilson, Artur Gavrus, Jerrod Maidens. All injured while wearing Attack jerseys with concussions- two have not played since-  sum total punishment for all four offences – 1 game.

  9. Skate with your head down and get smoked, maybe nail might learn something by getting Nailed, good check Helmo

  10. You have to be absolutely blind to see that he did not leave his feet. His elbow is tucked in a stick carrying position against his body. The postion of contact was because Yakupov was reaching. His own fault. Everyone who has ever played hockey at a competitive level knows you do not cut into the middle of the ice without your head up and full puck control. Soccer moms writing articles like this is what is ruining the game. 

  11. Hava a look at the Joey Hishon hit in the Memorial Cup.   This hit was no where near as vicious as that one and  only one game.   H emay never play again. Biased writing if I ever saw it

  12. Dx_farwell, any contact to the head in the OHL is a headshot.  Doesn’t matter if it was intentional or not. 

    • one could easily argue Yakupov hit Helmo. If you lead with your head and you are looking down its going to hurt.  Dee

  13. That was a good clean open ice hit. Halmo is back checking and Yakupov cuts in to the middle where he deserves to get popped. As Halmo SLOWS down and cuts back to apply the hit, he does turn causing the arm to be the lead point of contact and yes as he braces himself the arm comes up a bit. Also as part of bracing for the hit the feet do come up. There is no intent to injure and Halmo does not target the head, more that Yakupov put his head in the way. If the OHL gives a suspension here it is just saying “feel free to cut through the middle with your head down, we will suspend a guy if he hits you.”

    • So to brace for a hit, you jump into the air is what you are saying. Interesting??? 5 years ago that was a clean hit, but in today’s game you can’t target the head. That was probably the last game in Halmo’s OHL career. Let’s just hope Yakupov learns what Stamkos learned is his first year of his OHL career by keeping your head up when crossing through the middle.

    • How does he not target his head? Have you seen the video? His elbow made complete contact with Yakupov’s head. You cannot charge into someones head with your elbow no matter what.

      • Elbowing is an act of sticking it out to initiate contact. Halmo lead with it, but he didn’t stick it out until after the contact was made, which is a natural reaction.

        Should Halmo be suspended? Probably. He left his feet and the head was the principle point of contact. But was there an elbow? Absolutely not.

      • But can you charge into someones elbow with your head,apparently so. Good hit.
        Either take all contact out of the game and skate with your head down or keep it in and skate with your head up. Its a no brainer.

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