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Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Scott Stevens effect

Posted by on Sun, Oct 26, 2008 at 10:08 AM

Clearly, the Weight hit has elicited a strong response from hockey fans. Although it has been all but cleared by the league because it was an open-ice hit and Doug Weight was admittedly sorry afterwards, this unfortunate event raises the same old questions: should hits like this be allowed? If a hit is not completed when a player’s back is turned, accompanied by a direct blow to the head, or with noticeable intent to injure, (how one gauges that is anybody’s guess) it gets a stamp of approval. Players such as Scott Stevens thrived on this rule, circling the neutral zone and looking for their next victim.

Of course, everyone remembers this one.

 

Scott Stevens is now a hall-of-famer, and players continue to be hurt by these legal hits. Many, perhaps even most, around the league believe that when a player is vulnerable – is not looking or has their head down – their opponent should let up, and those who don’t should be punished. Players have suffered serious injuries as a result of these “entertaining” hits, a relic of another NHL era. Last season, Patrice Bergeron was hit by Philadelphia’s Randy Jones and missed the rest of the season due to concussion symptoms. The league suspended Jones for only two games, and Bergeron was criticized for leaving himself in a vulnerable position. The Hurricanes’ own Matt Cullen missed a large chunk of last year’s season with vision problems after receiving an open-ice hit from Colton Orr, who received no backlash from the league. If a player is facing the boards or is watching the puck, he should not have to worry about eating out of a straw for the next two weeks.

 

Hurricanes coach Peter Laviolette agrees. He had this to say after the Islanders game:

 

"(Sutter) was in a vulnerable position, and those kind of hits have to be removed from the game,” Laviolette said. “He may not have had his arm up, but those kind of hits are dangerous."

 

There is no word on Sutter as of yet, but you can watch the hit here. Ignore the commentary and judge for yourself.

 

Weight is not trying to push Sutter off the puck; he doesn’t even come close to the rubber disk. He is trying to knock Sutter silly, and even if he didn’t mean to injure the rookie, he was tempting fate by attempting that kind of hit. It’s good to see that he was sorry afterwards; he should be. Hits on a player whose head is down should be banned from the league before another player is severely injured. Hockey purists don’t want to lose this aspect of the game, but this predatory style of play has been mostly phased out with rule changes and this one, scary part has been left behind. For those who wonder why casual observers think hockey is a violent and brutal sport, this could be part of it.

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