Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Criticism of Big Hits Threatens an Integral Part of Hockey

My beef this week is with the critics of the big hits that have taken place the last week in the NHL.

Although there has been an epidemic of rough hits over the past week, people have to remember that hockey is a rough sport, which is exactly what a lot of fans love about it.

The question here, however, is were the hits dirty plays?

The hit that started all the controversy was the one placed on Boston Bruin Marc Savard’s head by Pittsburgh Penguin defenseman Matt Cooke’s shoulder, which left Savard with a concussion. Firstly, the NHL rules allow a player to make a shoulder-to-head hit, so Cooke’s hit was perfectly legal. Secondly, Cooke had already prepared his check before Savard shot, and when he made the hit Savard’s head was down. As a hockey player, one of the first things you learn about checking is to finish your check, and that is exactly what Cooke was doing.

Hockey is not a gentleman’s game. Players are expected to do whatever it takes to win the game without overstepping the boundaries that both the written and unwritten rules impose. Cooke followed the written rules by making a legal hit and followed the unwritten rules by not having the intent to injure Savard.

The next hit involved one of the two biggest stars in the sport: Washington Capital Alexander Ovechkin and Chicago Blackhawk Brian Campbell. Ovechkin checked Campbell into the boards, resulting in a broken collarbone that will keep Campbell from playing for seven to eight weeks.

Ovechkin has often been called out for being reckless on the ice, especially when it comes to his hits. But isn’t that what people love about hockey? Hockey’s violence is what sets it apart from other mainstream sports, and it puts people in the seats.

Ovechkin got a five-minute major for boarding, and a two-game suspension.

It is understandable that the NHL has a PR obligation to show it does not take injurious hits lightly, but the criticism from fans and the media is absurd. Ovechkin was playing the game with intensity, something other athletes don’t do enough.

The hits that disturbed me were Steve Downie’s hit on Sidney Crosby and James Wisniewski’s hit on Brent Seabrook. This is because both Downie and Wisniewski went out of their way to deliver the hits to players who did not even have the puck.

The first took place in a game between the Lightning and Penguins. Downie’s hit was clearly meant to injure Crosby. Downie put his knee behind Crosby’s leg and bascially tried to snap it backwards.

There was no penalty called, but Downie was later fined the small amount of $1,000.

Then came Wisniewski’s hit on Seabrook. Seconds earlier, the Blackhawks’ Seabrook had delivered a huge hit to Corey Perry, and the Ducks’ Wisniewski felt the need to return the favor. When he made the hit, he left his feet, showing obvious ill intent, and he left Seabrook with a concussion. Wisniewski was hit with an eight-game suspension.

The checks delivered by Downie and Wisniewski are the worst type of hits in hockey because the victims of these checks don’t even know what hit them until it is too late. Instead of making violent hits on unsuspecting opponents, Downie and Wisniewski should learn to follow the time-honored saying, \”fight like a man.\” Although fighting may not be the greatest aspect of the sport, at least there is less chance of injury, as both players know what is coming, plus there is still a chance for retaliation, a tradition in hockey.

On the other hand, it would be wrong to say that Cooke and Ovechkin didn’t have any malicious intent in making their hits, but neither had the intent to injure anyone.

Hockey is naturally a violent game and almost everyone wants it to stay that way. ESPN analyst Barry Melrose recently appeared on Pardon the Interruption and vehemently defended the physicality of the game, saying, \”Hockey is a violent sport. I don’t want to get to the point where cowards can play our sport.\”

Everyone who loves hockey also either loves or respects big hits. They’re part of the game. But then whenever someone gets injured, either by a clean play or a dirty play, everyone goes up in arms about the sport being too violent, and suddenly every injurious hit is seen as a dirty play.

This is not true. The NHL allows a lot of surprising things, such as shoulder shots to the head that sometimes result in injuries. So, until the NHL changes those rules, the players have the right to make those hits.

So don’t let a few bad apples like Downie and Wisniewski, who don’t follow those rules, ruin hockey. The sport has violence in its blood, and big hits are what make hockey, well, hockey.”

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