April 16, 2014

OPINION: Wilson’s hit the type league should legislate out of the game

The NHL Department of Player Safety issued its decision about Washington Capitals forward Tom Wilson’s hit Tuesday night on the Philadelphia Flyers’ Brayden Schenn, saying that no supplemental discipline would come as a result of the play.

My opinion of the matter was well documented in my column that evening. I am quite surprised that Wilson did not receive supplemental discipline. While Brendan Shanahan’s explanation is thorough and exhausting, I still believe the hit was unnecessarily violent and should not be tolerated in the game.

In my interpretation of the play, Wilson was neither forechecking or playing good hockey; he was looking to drive Schenn through the boards — which he did — in an effort to simply deliver a noticeable big hit. The on-ice officials saw fit to award a major penalty and game misconduct to Wilson, which I agree with fully.

Obviously, the league and Caps brass don’t agree with my assessment of the play.

Also, and this is a pretty fine point to make, but there’s a huge difference between a “legal” hit by the definition of the rule book and a dangerous one that should be eliminated from the game nonetheless. Wilson had to know that if he delivered the hit in the manner he did that the primary consequence would be Schenn’s limp body being thrown into the end boards. Schenn was very clearly skating parallel to the goal line and was just primed to be driven into the boards as the result of this hit.

Wilson disregarded the dangerous aspect of his actions and carried through with the hit regardless.

Just image if this was Zac Rinaldo hitting Nick Backstrom in this manner. Only you can answer how your opinion might change or not were the situation reversed.

This is not to say I believe that Wilson is a “dirty” player, or that this was a “dirty” hit. I don’t believe Wilson attempted this play with the intent on injuring Schenn. What I do think is that this play was dangerous and violent and could have resulted in catastrophic injury for Schenn. It is those types of plays that I very much believe the league should try to legislate out of the game.

By failing to impose supplemental discipline to Wilson, the league is sanctioning the type of play Wilson engaged in, setting a precedent for these hits to continue to be “legal”, despite the danger they pose to the players on the ice. I get that hockey is a contact sport at this level, and a significant portion of the fan base enjoys the violent aspects of the game. I’m not espousing that the league be legislated into a non-contact league.

But I am perfectly happy to sacrifice some of the violence in this league to make it safer and to promote the hockey aspects of the game instead of the violence. And I believe the type of play Wilson engaged in is part of the dangerous and unnecessary violence in the league.

I guess it all depends on what kind of hockey you want to watch.

I’m afraid I’m in the vast minority on this point. I hope that we never have to see a day where we’re writing an obituary for a player who dies on the ice from a hit such as this.

Comments

  1. Grossmann would never check Nick Backstrom like that because Backstrom would never, ever put himself in that position.

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