Do You Consider David Steckel A Villain?

January 1, 2011. It is a date that two men became forever linked together. Two men at the complete opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of their status in the NHL. One, the sport’s biggest star, it’s best player and one that had already reached iconic status at the age of 23. The other, a third or fourth line grinder who offers little in the way of point production but has carved out a spot in the league by being a big-body presence and a faceoff specialist.

Back to that date.

On a day where the hockey world was to celebrate one of it’s marquee events of the season, the Winter Classic, the game unfortunately will be forever remembered as the game in which Sidney Crosby suffered his first concussion; one that sidelined him for the remainder of that season and continues to be responsible for sidelining him today.

Sidney Crosby, hockey’s biggest star, someone who transcends his sport both on and off the ice, has been absent for over a year thanks largely in part to a hit by David Steckel, the aforementioned fourth-line grinder.

Sidney Crosby Connor McDavid
Pittsburgh Penguins’ Sidney Crosby gets off a backhand pass with Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid defending (THE CANADIAN PRESS/ AP/Gene J. Puskar)

The hit, which has been replayed over and over and disected by anyone with a voice in hockey, appears at first glance to be an accident and also rather innocent. The more you watch it however, the more you notice the forecful impact of the 6’5, 217 pound Steckel barreling into the unexpecting Crosby who is so stunned by the blow that he is sent twirling to the ice in an uncontrollable manner. Some argued that Steckel was simply skating to a spot and happened to accidentally catch Crosby as he skated by, while others argue that he purposely allowed himself to ram into Crosby’s head while cleverly disguising it as an accident.

Following the hit, Crosby, as we all know, has been unable to recover. He finally made his anticipated return in late November but lasted just eight games before what appeared to be the lightest of contact caused his symptoms to return.

Penguins center Sidney Crosby
Penguins center Sidney Crosby (Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)

As fans, we have been deprived of viewing a generational talent in the prime of his career for over a year now. A player, who before his injury was playing at such a dominant level that he drew comparisons to the likes of Gretzky and Lemieux before him. A player that just a year earlier had given Canadians one of their greatest sporting thrills by scoring the overtime winning goal in an Olympic Games on home soil.

All of the awe inspiring moments that Sidney Crosby would be providing if he were playing can only be left in our minds as a question; what if? But that is not the question I would like to present in this piece. What I would really like to know is whether or not you consider David Steckel, now playing with the Toronto Maple Leafs, a villain.

A look at Steckel’s career stats and you will see that he is far from a player that would purposely try to injure someone. His career high 34 penalty minutes in a season shows that he is, in essence, a clean player with no track record of illegal/dangerous hits.

A hardworking, honest player, Steckel has carved out a career in the NHL as a player who can be relied upon to provide solid minutes as a checking center, and a guy you absolutely want on the ice to take important faceoffs.

A soft-spoken individual off the ice, there is little doubt that he did not purposely try to hurt Crosby, and even less doubt that he feels bad for the outcome. But in that split second, did Steckel decide that maybe he wouldn’t pass up the opportunity to collide with the Penguins star player? Did it run through his mind that maybe ‘I’ll just give him a little bump to knock him down as the final seconds of the second period tick off?’

Certainly, there was no intent to have the outcome of the collision turn out the way it has, but it is quite obvious that Steckel made little effort to avoid Crosby and likely ‘meant’ to bump into him.

Only David Steckel knows what was going through his mind at that exact moment, but what I would like to know is how you view him. Do you see him as a villain who took away your enjoyment of watching the best hockey player in the world, or do you see him as someone who unfortunately was in the wrong place at the wrong time and will unjustly be remembered as the player who gave Sidney Crosby his first concussion?

Let’s hear what you think.

24 thoughts on “Do You Consider David Steckel A Villain?”

  1. @iloveburritos:disqus ..  it’s common sense.   we have seen many instances where a player gets a hit that to the eye is a sure concussion.  They pass the imPACT test, and then a day or two later are diagnosed as having a concussion.   The penguins medical staff should have been fired to a man.  If he doesn’t go out and get hit a 2nd time while concussed from steckel this wouldn’t have been so bad.   
    On topic.  Absolutely, steckel ran crosby on purpose.  Don’t believe he tried to end his career, but this goes on all the time in hockey.  If you are a 4th line checking center and you have a chance to “accidently” collide with the other teams star player, you do so and you do it with vigor.   The fact that Steckel did not get any discipline from the league is appalling.  Hitting  an unexpecting player when the play is at the other end of the ice is pretty low.

  2. This is just ridiculous right here. Crosby had his head down and Steckel had his back turned. Everyone is talking about the Tampa game but forget to mention that happened in the 2nd period of the Winter Classic and he finished playing in that game. If you watched 24/7 Road to the Winter Classic you can clearly see he was hurt and something was wrong but played out that game and then played in Tampa.  I dont want to see his career end like this or go out like this but i wont say Steckel is a villian for what happened. 

    • I seen the same thing on 24/7. He is sitting in the locker room telling a teamate he can’t remember the hit, a sign he was knocked out. The Pen’s medical staff clearly could have handled this better.

  3. He’s an idiot. Made a bad decision. How long can he last in the league. Prob not too long. 3 teams in last 12 months. He deals with huge regret.

  4. The pemises is dumb. Steckel’s hit was an accident. It could have happened anywhere any time. Leave him alone. The biggest problem for Crosby was that the Pittsburg organization let him out on the ice without recognizing the problem. The hit in Tampa caused the problem – but that hit could have been anywhere anytime. What is worse than Steckels hit is the innuendo and disingenuous premises put forth by this author. Grow up and be principled.

  5. this is such garbage. There was nothing intentionally about that hit. Crosby blindly turned right into Crosby’s path. And it was not Steckel who ended Crosby’s season–that would be Victor Hedman, who boarded Crosby in the next game the Penguins played.

  6. the best hockey player in the world? I thought Crosby got hurt, not Malkin, who has clearly out-shown him this season even when he was healthy.

  7. I don’t think Steckel meant for the outcome to be what it is.  Maybe Steckel did not see Crosby until the last second (his job was to defend Crosby – he should have a good idea of where he is most of the time).  But I do think he “meant” to bump him.  If that was one of his own players, I think he would have made an attempt to avoid him and the collision would not have been as devastating.

    • Agreed. That is how I feel. I mean, its probably something that happens many times throughout the game and nothing like this happens. Guys certainly looks to bump into players all the time, so in a sense it is unfortunate for Steckel that the time he did it happened to cause a career threatening injury to the best player in the world.

      • If you are any type of Hockey Fan then you are devastated at the huge loss of talent that is Sidney Crosby. This should be undisputed. What should be disputed is the number of people who are willing to put this on the shoulders of David Steckel. Did he hit him? Yes. Did it cause a concussion? Probably. Was it career ending?  This is dangerous water to tread when there are so many factors at play. You call it career ending if Sid did not play again after that hit. Unfortunately he did and then went on to play in Tampa getting his head slammed into the glass. This is why now the NHL is taking a closer look at concussions, and so they should be. Players are now given the time to recover from the first blow before being put at risk of sustaining another. 
        David Steckel is proven to be an upstanding player and should not be villified. He has to live with this very unfortunate situation as he knows he had a hand in it. Was he the only hand? He was most certainly not.

  8. Thanks for the feedback.  Like I pointed out in the article, Steckel has proven to be far from a dirty player, but the fact remains that he did injure Crosby, which in turn makes for a very interesting discussion. I’m sure the answers between Leafs/Caps fans would be very different than most Pens fans.

  9. Firstly, we don’t know if the collision with Steckel even gave Crosby a concussion in the first place. I don’t know why people forget that he played in the entire game against the Lightning four days later and was boarded by Victor Hedman who, unlike Steckel, was assessed a penalty at the time. Why doesn’t anyone vilify Hedman? And anyway, if the collision with Stecks did happen to cause the initial concussion, it’s the Penguins organization who should be vilified for allowing him to play against Tampa in the first place and suffering the second impact.

    • It is pretty much a given that Crosby indeed suffered his concussion on the Steckel hit. What with the way it blindsided his head and sent him spiraling lifelessly to the ice and all. They also did a study that the type of hit he received which caused such whiplash is the worse way you can be hit. Sidney was just trying to tough it out against the Lightning and the hit from Hedman further intensified the injury.

      • Not sure I agree that it’s a “given” since there was obviously no assessment of his condition at the time (or he would not have played in Tampa). It’s not as if the NHL doesn’t have access to specialists who would know that type of hit is the worst kind. I begin to lose some sympathy if, as you suggest, the Pens allowed him to try and “tough it out” against Tampa. That’s just outright irresponsible on their part.

        Even as a Penguins hater, I would love to see Crosby healthy again.

        • It seems a 99.9% probability that Crosby received a concussion from the Steckel hit.  I don’t think the Pens or Crosby were irresponsible for Crosby playing against Tampa Bay.  Crosby had a sore neck and that is what the problem seemed to be at the time.  With Shanahan dishing out suspensions, it seems that many times the concussion is not diagnosed with the injured player until after the offending player is already punished.

        • Well I presume he told trainers he was good enough to play the following game, not realizing the harm he was potentially causing hismelf. He likely figured that as long as he felt nothing wrong physically that he could play, but the brain doesnt work like the rest of the body.

        • Crosby was concussed on the Steckel hit. It was obvious as soon as it happened. He wasn’t knocked out for much more than a second, but he was still “lifeless” as Andrew said when he fell to the ice. Just watch his right arm flop over his body in the video. The symptoms weren’t obvious right away though. As soon as you get one concussion it becomes twice as easy to get a second one, so getting his face slammed into the glass by Hedman only a few nights later worsened Crosby’s symptoms big time.

  10. I have watched that hit so many times it is ridiculous. Right from the beginning I called it as a concussion.  As for Steckel, like any player who notices at the last second there is going to be incidental contact with a teammate or an opponent they are going to twitch, lower their shoulder, raise their hands or even lean towards the contact all in a natural reaction to protect themselves.  An example of this from the current season is when Daniel Alfredsson was hit and received a concussion.  The player to accidentally ran into hit did not receive a suspension because it was seen as self defense right before unexpected contact.  I am sure the Sens coaches, players and fans did not agree but that was the ruling.

    I am not a Capital or Penguin fan but instead a Maple Leaf Fan. When Toronto acquired him my Capital friend joked that the Leafs just got the “Crosby Killer.”  My friend always took the stand that Steckel was one of the last people in the league he would ever expect to intentionally hit or even hurt someone.  I was on the fence about Steckel since Crosby is Canada’s GOLDEN boy and I was upset and sad to see him go down with that sever of an injury.  He scored the goal that gave us a Gold medal, of course i was upset.However, after watching Steckel now for half a season in a Leaf uniform i would completely agree with my friend.  David Steckel hit someone intentionally?  Also intentionally cause an injury?  You gotta be kidding there is no way.  There is no part of his game that is physical or even remotely mean.  David Steckel was just heading back up ice after doing his defensive responsibilities as a 4th liner and trying to join the rush.  He is in a way a victim of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  He is a large man…much taller than Crosby.  Instead of Crosby, if it were Malkin i doubt there is a concussion and possibly no injury at all as Steckel’s shoulder would have hit Malkin dead center in the chest instead of the jaw as in Crosby’s case.As much as I love Crosby he must accept partial responsibility as well.  Todays players need to be better aware of their surroundings and understand that sometimes they put themselves in a position to be injured by focusing on the play elsewhere and not on what is right around them.Steckel a Villan?  No.  A gentleman type player caught in an unfortunate situation?  Yes.

    •  if you’ve ever played hockey before you’d know it was intentional.  dirty or not, he meant to do it.  the “oh i didn’t see him there” move is practiced by all.

      • I have played hockey for almost 30 years.  Not just out back with friends or just men’s league , but good quality hockey in college and even some time on the ice with the local AHL team.  I have seen plenty of accidental and intentional hits that have caused injury.  If his hit was seen as intentional the league would have suspended him and THE PENS wold have gone after him.  Even pens players felt it was accidental contact.  Sure he twitched his shoulder right before contact with Crosby, but every player does that right before they notice they are going to come in contact with someone by accident.  That is a natural human instinct to protect your self.  

        I am guessing you are looking at the hit from one point of view…Crosby’s.  To analyze any hit you have to put yourself in the skates of each player and try to see if from each point of view.  If you do this you might start to see that there is a VERY high possibility that neither player sees each other until the last second…Crosby until pretty much the point of contact.  It is a contact sport.  Accidents will happen just like how Crosby collided with his team mate after a few games back.  Is his own teammate out to get Crosby too?

  11. Steckel isn’t a dirty player or a villian. He was just on the ice at the wrong time. The incident looks perfectly accidental to me. Having the replay replayed over and over again must be really taxing on Steckel. He’s forever known as the guy who knocked  Crosby out of the game for a year. It was accidental in my opinion and that we’re all killing Steckel inside.

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