Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Ahhhh...The Return of Captain Blood

I know this post is a bit late in timing, but I wanted to drop my two cents on the issue of the low bridge hit. First off we saw two prime examples recently of well executed hip checks by Steve Ott and Rob Scuderi. Unfortunately both the Ott and Scuderi hits have been removed from you tube, so I will just have to verbally describe them.

The Ott hit was an open ice hip check directed at the thigh region of Carlo Colaiacovo, which was inflicted about one second after the puck was gone, and resulted in Colaiacovo flipping over Ott's back and landing on the ice. Carlo got up pretty gingerly after the hit and has been out since with an "upper-body injury."

The Scuderi hit was a well-timed hip check on Jason Chimera that happened along the boards near the attacking blueline. Scuderi, to gain the most leverage, got very low and hit Chimera right below the knee, sending him over top of him and landing face first into the ice. Chimera was cut, but was not injured on the play.

My thoughts were that both of these hits were good old-fashioned hip checks that have been a part of the game of hockey as long it has been around, and is a crucial part of the physical aspect of the sport. I understand that the league has a clipping penalty for delivering a hit at or below the knees of an opposing player, but in the split second that Scuderi had to deliver the hit, his training as a hockey player tells him that unless he wants to get trucked over by a forward coming in at full speed, he had better get himself low to the ice. Is that a dirty play? I really don't think so.

Ott's hit was a little bit of a different story. He was skating towards Colaiacovo and delivered the hit about a second after the puck had been moved. After watching the video a few times through, it was clear to me that Ott went into a hitting motion prior to the puck leaving Colaiacovo's stick, and there was really no way that Ott could have pulled back. Furthermore, even if Ott had the ability to pull back in that one second, I don't really think that he should have. Part of playing an aggressive style of hockey, which Marc Crawford certainly promotes, is for your attacking forwards to be as physical as possible with the opposing defensemen, so that they not only have less time and space, but so they are slower mentally because they have to think about taking a hit. If Ott does not finish his check there, and let's be honest, players finish checks all over the ice seconds after the puck has been moved, it's what you are taught the second you are allowed to hit in youth hockey, than he is giving up on his team's system and is diminishing his value on the ice.

The aftermath of these two scenarios left Ott with a two game suspension and Scuderi with just a fine. I can more or less understand Ott's suspension as he is a repeat offender, but Scuderi really is as well (See his hit last year on Keith Ballard) and so the inconsistency between the punishments is both puzzling and frustrating, but that inconsistency is the consistency with NHL discipline. I don't really like getting into that debate, but Greg Wyshynski at Puck Daddy does, and has something to say in this circumstance.

All in all, I hope that the suspension and fine for Ott and Scuderi do not creep into their hockey playing minds the next time they are going to deliver a hit, because this type of physicality is a traditional part of hockey, a fun part of hockey (for players and fans) and with out a doubt belong in the game.

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