Thursday, April 01, 2010

Another Night, Another 5 And A Game For Boarding

Remember the good ol' days? When a player knew a hit was coming and would be ready for it. (And if we're lucky, smear the guy who intended to smear him.) When the last thing he would do is stand two feet away from the glass and turn his back. When the most feared check was the Scott Stevens-style demolition delivered open ice.

The new rule is intended to protect the players from head shots not stupidity, and definitely not from boarding. There's already a rule for that:
42.1 Boarding – A boarding penalty shall be imposed on any player or goalkeeper who checks an opponent in such a manner that causes the opponent to be thrown violently in the boards. The severity of the penalty, based upon the degree of violence of the impact with the boards, shall be at the discretion of the Referee.

There is an enormous amount of judgment involved in the application of this rule by the Referees. The onus is on the player (or goalkeeper) applying the check to ensure his opponent is not in a vulnerable position and if so, he must avoid the contact. However, there is also a responsibility on the player with the puck to avoid placing himself in a dangerous and vulnerable position. This balance must be considered by the Referees when applying this rule.
There's a sad trend starting of guys kissing the dashers in order to draw penalties. I'm not just talking about the checks that Ryan Kesler and Matt Lashoff recently got the boot for. (Though I think their marks, particularly Derek Morris, did little to prepare for the hit.)

I'm taking about the 'soccer-fication' of hockey. In the recent Rangers victory over the Islanders, Brandon Prust got two after giving an innocuous bump to John Tavares, who was facing the boards. Prust deliberately did not check Tavares in the numbers. It's a hockey play we see all night long, and only becomes a penalty if Tavares crumples. And guess what? Yep, Tavares walks away from the "hit" (sorry, no video) and the already short-handed Rangers go two men down.

Calling the result is not a new trend for referees. How many slashings have we seen that weren't called because the player's stick stayed in one piece? But certainly no player skates with a half-broken twig in hopes of drawing a call.

It's amazing how many players are willing to break their body because they think the post-lockout rules will protect them. In fact, they were much safer when it was legal to hook and hold a guy into the boards. If players don't take some responsibility for their own safety, they're going to drive hitting out of the game along with the clutch-n-grab.

End rant. Play on, boys, and keep your heads up. Please.



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