Thursday, October 19, 2006


Foul: Yes or No?

My Answer: Yes.

My Answer: Oh God, yes.

My Answer: I can admit it now: probably.

My Answer: Nope.

My Answer: Yes.

My Answer: Surprisingly, mostly no. The Lindros one is for sure a no.


*I wanted to add the actual hitting guidelines from the NHL Rulebook, but their PDF isn't allowing me to copy and paste text. Those guys can't do anything right.

**Pad tap to Doogie for finding most of these clips.


I still think that's the turning point (besides the obvious Roloson save on Cheechoo that Roli had no business making). Michalek looked so damn dangerous and was giving the Oil all kinds of hell to contain until then. SJ's 2nd line wasn't nearly as effective when he got knocked out...and it wasn't too much better when he rushed to returned.

Dirty, dirty play, but it's something that had to be done to help his team win. Now if only he can score like Messier too.

I still say that Regehr hit should have been penalized. He comes across a good amount of ice, and there is a good couple seconds between Downey dumping the puck and getting clobbered. The puck has moved from the red line to the blue line by the time Regehr gets over there. A brutal hit, and a brutal non-call.

The Kariya hit was brutal - full 2-3 seconds after he ditched the puck. Say what you will about how fast stuff moves, but Stevens had plenty of time to realize there was no puck there and to lay off.

I was originally going to point to the Lindros hit, too, then saw it for myself, and thought "no way in hell."

My problem with most of these hits is less that there was a second or two's delay -- shit happens, and those guys had time to get a quick look around to make sure they weren't about to be demolished, and do something about it; Hemsky seems to be fairly good at this -- but the fact that in that the hitter always seemed to "miss the shoulder," particularly in videos two and three. I'm not going to give the Michalek hit back, but I'm not going to lie to you that it bothers me a bit.

For the legality, the rulebook under "Charging" says that the referee may hand out a match for intent to injure, or 5 + a game for "injury to the face or head." I never knew what the difference was between the two, and having read it, it appears largely bureaucratic. (Side note: what the hell happened to the HTML rulebook?) Anyway, so if the referee did believe they were charging calls, then all four of the videos I linked yesterday would be 5+G. The problem seems to be more the perception of whether the initial contact, regardless of placement or timing, was legal, anyway.

I'm prepared to defend that Letowski hit. It was a sideswipe that happened to clip his chin at high speed. I know it looks awful bad with the dude ending up lying there like a bag of oats, but that's the nature of knockout blows--an inadvertent high-G rotation of the head can turn the brain out like a light when a direct blow might not. (It actually sounds like the broadcasters are raising the point on the tape, but a splice cuts them off.)

With Torres-Michalek, the guys in the booth can't even really specify what was wrong with it on the replay, and I can't either. Keep your head up next time, Mulan.

I think there's a pretty strong consensus that Campbell-Umberger is clean, isn't there?

Torres hit was clean. He came across a finished it he was not late. Was it brutal yes it was. OLN guys were scrambling. I think Harry & Bob were doing the game for mothercorp and they said it was a heavy hit. No elbow all shoulder.
Stevens hits usually involve another D, were the player thinks he is OK and then whammo lights out Scott Stevens arrives.

I should point out that all my answers are to the question in the title.

I think there's a pretty strong consensus that Campbell-Umberger is clean, isn't there?

I would say so. He had the puck, and Campbell was close to him.

I'm prepared to defend that Letowski hit.

I'm not. My problem with it is that I don't think it's a sideswipe. I think it's a hit from behind, similar to a clip in football. As such, it's almost impossible to protct yourself. There is no lateral movement from Armstrong. He's skating back and hits Letowski from behind.

Well if everyone else is going to be a homer...

The difference with the Torres hit is that he was skating in the same direction as the puck was going after Michalek got rid of it. He should have easily been able to see that the puck was already gone and adjusted so as not to have hitten Michalek with a shoulder to the head...

And is it just me, or did Armstrong leave his feet in a pretty blatant manner (he looks like he is jumping up at Letowski...

- Randy

Well, there are two issues.

Were the Torres hit, Regehr hit, Stevens hit on Kariya, Armstrong hit (but not the Campbell hit - funny how the one clean hit of the bunch caused a ruckus) interference?

Yes. 2 minutes for interference. Although at full speed in each case there was a beat or two tops between the puck going and the guy getting hit. Having not played at that level and speed I'm not sure how easy it is for the hitter to stop the process at that point - isn't that how a lot of knee on knees result??

Second point - the head shot. Should it be outlawed? Some, like mudcrutch I think, say yes, most definitely. Once again, if a guy hits a guy at full speed and happens to catch the guy's head then should the hitter get a major and a game - I doubt it because then you're in danger of eliminating contact - guys say well shots to the shoulder or the chest should be fine but head shots are not - well if there is a grey area (and there is) I'd say you'd see a lot less hitting.

I know that some will disagree with me and say any shot to the head should be a serious penalty but unless it is a blatant attempt to take a guy's head off I don't know how you can do it.

"a good couple seconds between Downey dumping the puck and getting clobbered"????

What kind of seconds are you using?? Even in slow-mo replay, it is not "a good couple seconds". I am beginning to think you may be biased against the Flames...

I am beginning to think you may be biased against the Flames...

What could possibly give you that idea!?

And I'm beginning to think you may be biased in favor of the Flames...

And Randy, I said I think the Torres hit was a foul. So I can't be accused of homerism on that front. At least, not any longer.

The OHL implemented new rules banning checks to the head this season. Depending on the severity, there are 2 minute minors and 5 and a game for headshots. I'm guessing that a lot of those Stevens hits would be penalties under these rules.

It really grosses me out that Letowski is twitching out when the trainer comes over to get him.

I didn't think any one of those hits were illegal. The only one I would question is the Letowski sideswipe, if only that it was partially from behind.

But, honestly, "a couple of seconds"? Really?

The NHL is a fast, fast game. You got to keep your head up. Every one of those hits was avoidable (or, at least, less damaging) if the player hadn't admired his own play with the puck.

The way things are going, the NHL will remove hitting out of the game completely and all of you denouncing these hits will sleep a little better at night. However, that hasn't happened yet, and the more the game opens up, and the bigger and faster the players get, these hits will continue to happen.

And if a player doesn't want to make the TSN Top Ten the hard way, he will have to keep his head up and on a swivel.

None of them were illegal? come on. They were all clear headshots except for the Campbell hit. That was the only one where you could legitimately say that the hitter didn't make a move towards the guy's head with his shoulder.

Just because it wasn't an elbow doesn't make it a case of 'oh the guy's head was down and that's why his head got hit'. Torres' hit was the best case of a guy ignoring the chest and trying (and succeeding) to put his shoulder through the guy's head.

Stevens, as much as he is revered like Dion for his hitting, frequently dished out dirty hits. Dion jumps and Stevens goes for the head ESPECIALLY on that Lindros hit where he jumps a bit so that he is able to hit his chin. If he had not of gone that extra bit it would have been a great check, right into Lindros' chest but he was a headhunter.

BDHS raises a good point in that with the speed of the game it is hard to see whether a hit was deliberately aimed at the head (every hit there except for Campbell's) or if the shoulder hits the head because of the puck carrier lowering his head. The only way to judge it is retroactively like they do in European soccer.

When you line a guy up, and brace for impact, there is a natural uncoiling of the hips, it's just a reaction to the impending contact. If guys didn't unload a little bit at the moment of impact, it would be big guy kills little guy everytime.

The Regher hit looks like it had a little elbow in it, but other than that I don't see a problem with it.

The Letowski hit is atrocious, Armstrong had zero position for a hit, and just lunges at him football style.

Torres hit is way late, but I don't think he loaded up to hit him in the head.

The Buf/Phi hit ugly, dude left his feet, but he didn't need to leave his feet to make a mess of that kid. He had good position, and timed it well. Keep your head up, kid.

I don't see anything wrong with the hit on Kariya. All shoulder, no jump, maybe a hair late.

Most of those Stevens hits are clean, except the one on Langkow, that was all elbow, and on Francis he left his feet.

What surprises me is that Stevens didn't ever get burned coming clean across the ice to make those hits. You would think that guys would be aware that he's on the ice, wait for him to come head hunting, and then dump the book to the open man and get down.

I personally love the physical apect of the game, but I don't like dirty hits. Don't leave your feet, don't use your elbows, and don't run guys when they're showing you their numbers.

With regards to the Armstrong check....

Give me a break. There was a split second between him getting rid of the puck and Armstrong hitting him. Once he committed to that check, there was no way he could avoid him.

Sorry for the abrasive comment, but this topic really ticks me off. It just seems that every time there's a big hit, the first question people ask is "was it legal?" Heck, any heavy body contact of any kind is held with deep suspicion as was evidenced at the Oilers/Canucks game as any solid contact on a Canuck player was greeted with a chorus of boos.

Come on people, hockey is a physical sport. These are big fast athletes, and they are making split second decisions every shift. People are going to get hurt. People are going to make hits just a little late. If you start fining hits like that, then you're ultimately going to take contact completely out of the game because guys will be too afraid to make hits because the potential consequences would be out of line with the realities of the sport.

And what's all this nonsense about banning head shots? Do you guys know why they haven't banned head shots? Because they can't! How the fuck can you? Unlike football, your ability to adjust yourself to hit someone in a specific location is significantly reduced in hockey for obvious reasons. You line up your check and you hit what you hit; if the guy is much shorter than you, than there's a much better chance you hit them in the head. In fact, I would say that 97% of headshots are unintentional and are a direct result of guys on SKATES moving at high speeds, who ready themselves to make contact, but have no control over what part of the body they come in contact with. I mean for guys like Kariya, you'd almost have to crouch to ensure that you don't hit him in the head. Again this is hockey, not football. The degree of care you guys are demanding from these players is absolutely ridiculous.

Don't apologize for being abrasive Mclea. It's encouraged here, as long as we know who you are. You obviously feel strongly about it, so speak your mind.

The Armstrong hit is brutal because it is from behind. He pursues, and is lateral for maybe a split second. There is no protection from that, so the refs need to enforce it. What I find interesting about so many of these hits this year is that no one is doing anything about it. I might have leaped over the bench and gone after Armstrong if i was on that team.

And I disagree with the notion that it all happens too fast. Most of us have played competitive sports, and I think most of us would admit that the play often feels super slow, especially if you are in charge of it. I have no doubt in my mind that Scott Stevens was always in control of his body and where it went, for example. No doubt at all.

The only thing that bothered me about Stevens is that I genuinely think that he intentionally aimed to hurt guys by concussing them.

What stands out was against Carolina when the replays show him homing in on Francis like a heat seeking missile then that poor kid got in the trolley tracks and Stevens targeted him instead. I was sure he was going for Francis. The very next game he damn near killed Francis.

I don't know what his thought process is, and it's just my opinion. And with the Torres hit I think it's dirty because it really does look like a headshot, once again just my opinion. I have to agree though that it surprises me how good Stevens always was at delivering those open ice hits.

Also the Umberger hit he had no chance on. I recall the commentators mentioning and showing that Umberger got a dead man pass from his team mate, and he had little choice but to play it and get demolished or give up a breakaway to the oncoming guy.

I'm off to the book store to buy a rulebook. I can't look at that damn PDF.

Were they penalties? Not for head contact. I can't find anything about head contact being illegal (if you have, please let me know). If an elbow was up, you bet. Shoulder pads are getting harder and harder. Hard plastic on top of the padding, with just a jersey on top of that, and there is your injury potential. Why bring up the elbow, when a shoulder is 'legal', and more effective?

Interference? Maybe, but how can you find out? Zoom out. Here is how it would play in USA Hockey (yes, I know it isn't the NHL, but it's what I have to work with right now). This is how USA Hockey defines possession:

Possession of the Puck
The last player or goalkeeper to make contact with
the puck. This includes a puck that is deflected off a
player or any part of his equipment.

The Kariya hit? Legal, if no one touched the puck before the hit. Michalek? Legal. Look at the puck at the time of the hit. No one touched it yet, so possession has not changed, not teams, nor players. Regher? Nope, dumped in the corner, no possession change. By "definition," the checked player still had possession.

Hey, here we go. From the Interference penalty section of the NHL rulebook, page 114:

The last player to touch the puck, other than the goaltender, shall be considered the player in possession.

So, there you go. Watch the checks armed with this knowledge, and some assesments may change.

Is it dumb? Maybe, sorta, and kinda. The NHL should have a head contact rule in place. There is no need, and if a player isn't going to get the job done with his body on body check, he should maybe give up checking for a living.

Andy said:
>>And I disagree with the notion that it all happens too fast. Most of us have played competitive sports, and I think most of us would admit that the play often feels super slow, especially if you are in charge of it.<<

Uh, sure. The sports I've played were just as fast as NHL hockey... Get real Andy. It *is* a fast game. Fast enough the puck can go from red line to blue line in under "two good seconds".

Speaking as an Oiler fan here, the Regehr hit was legal (definitely less than a second after the puck left Downie's stick). Absolutely nothing wrong with that hit in my opinion. Or any of the others, aside from *maybe* the Armstrong hit. Awful result to be sure, but Letowski has to be more aware out there. I do think that one was OK as well, but at the same time I can see the case for a penalty... The others? A penalty would have been the wrong call for sure.

>>I have no doubt in my mind that Scott Stevens was always in control of his body and where it went, for example. No doubt at all.<<

For sake of argument, let's assume you're right (that they're in complete control). Are they hitting stationary targets? Do they have control over the other player?

That said, there's no question Stevens meant the head shots. Thing is, they're perfectly legal. Besides, it's not like he could have hit Kariya any lower. By the rules, shoulder shots to the head are fine.

Should they be legal? That's another question...

I believe that shoulder to head shots have to remain legal unless you want to take all body checking out of the game. mclea and others have already outlined that point.

In terms of injury prevention, I don't believe outlawing those hits would help. There's already players that turn into the boards to draw a penalty, thereby endangering their careers. Do we really want to encourage those same players to duck into heavy hits?

While I don't have any numbers to back this up, hits from behind seem more prevalent in today's game. Make shoulder checks to the head illegal, and the carnage would increase.

Wouldn't it be a better idea to go with a face mask of some sort? Something that would prevent a shoulder (or an elbow) from contacting the jaw? Obviously that would impact fighting though...

All in all, tothebank summed it up best:
>>I personally love the physical apect of the game, but I don't like dirty hits. Don't leave your feet, don't use your elbows, and don't run guys when they're showing you their numbers.<<

- Rod

Uh, sure. The sports I've played were just as fast as NHL hockey... Get real Andy. It *is* a fast game.

It's all relative, so what is your point?

"Uh, sure. The sports I've played were just as fast as NHL hockey... Get real Andy. It *is* a fast game."

And they're on skates, which makes it substantially harder to change direction in a split second. I don't think this point can be stressed enough.

I don't think so either. There's no rule against "head shots." And there are good reasons for the lack of rule against "head shots." And there are lots of sports you can watch if you don't like "head shots." And it is no surprise that victims like Kariya and Lindros usually don't get annihilated just once.

Awful result to be sure, but Letowski has to be more aware out there.

I totally agree with Andy on this one: how is Letowski supposed to be aware of a guy coming from behind him? Even if he was looking forward, he wouldn't have been able to see Armstrong until he got a shoulder in his face. I don't think Armstrong aimed for the chin, but he did completely blindside him.

Which brings me to the other point: I don't know if it's fair to say that any of these guys were aiming for head shots. In the Campbell and Torres hits, there were little changes in the position of Umberger (crouched a bit to get speed) and Michalek (turned a little) just before impact that contributed. I think Torres probably could have eased up, since he was coming across (Campbell was just in Umberger's path), but it seems more to me like he was going for hit and happened to get head. And as much control as these guys probably have, if the other player happens to shift a little after you've committed, you're going to hit him where you hit him.

You see that a lot with Stevens' hits: he's just going for a hit, and players are usually crouched or some such thing, and he happens to catch chin. You can't really expect Stevens to drop his shoulder an extra six inches just because the player is lower down than he is. Peter Schaefer's hit on Tim Connolly in last year's playoffs was pretty similar: Connolly slipped just before he hit him, and it was right on the chin.

As for Stevens' getting out of position to make hits, tothebank, I remember people suckering him decently regularly and getting odd-man rushes because of it. You didn't notice it a lot because he had Marty Brodeur in net and was almost always playing with Scott Niedermayer, who covered his ass from about 1994 on.

OK Andy, speed is a point. However, just because NHL players can skate faster and react faster than you or me, does that mean they're in perfect control of everything and everybody on the ice? Puuuleaze. The speed of NHL hockey is at such a high level, events can easily go the wrong way. The margin for error is simply smaller at higher rates of speed. Much smaller. Yeah, they're pros, but they're not machines.

- Rod

My point about Letowski being more aware is simply that an NHL calibre player cutting across the middle of the offensive zone should be looking around. If you can't, don't come across the middle. BTW, that means looking around *before* the pass, and after. Even before entering the zone. These guys are pros, and should have some general awareness of where each other is. Letowski played a role in being blindsided there. It wasn't as if an extra player jumped on the ice and clothes-lined him...

All of that said, a penalty wouldn't have been a bad call either. I'll defend the hit, but I can see the other viewpoint. It's just that Letowski played a role in it too.

- Rod

OK Andy, speed is a point.

Can I get a ruling here from a physicist, because I'm pretty sure that is a) impossible and therefore b) not at all true.

And they're on skates, which makes it substantially harder to change direction in a split second.

I think that means it is easier to change direction.

Physics lessons aside, I just can't see how Letowski is supposed to know that a guy is coming from behind him. You can't even tell from the camera where Armstrong is coming from. Is Letowski supposed to be so aware that he would know if Armstrong was coming from off the bench? Next thing you know, you're gonna tell me that Steve Moore should have known Todd Bertuzzi was right behind him.

And no, I'm not really comparing the two events. I wanna cut that one off righ there. But no one has even denied that Armstrong approached from behind. How can that be a safe and fair play?

"I think that means it is easier to change direction."

Oh fuck Andy, are you serious? We're trying to have a reasonable discussion about this and you're throwing out this nonsense?

Interesting. So anyone disagreeing with Andy is breaking the laws of physics... :-)

OK, I'll try again...

You claim that sports are slow when you're "in charge". I asserted that NHL hockey is faster than any competitive sport I've played, therefore our experience with sports being "slow" is not relevant. You countered that it's relative. So I said, "OK, to a point." Meaning:
- NHL players *are* capable of skating faster than us (surely there's not disagreement here ;-)
- NHL player also have faster reaction times than us

We still should still be in agreement--the speed is relative in that the players and game is faster, but so is their reaction time.

There is a tipping point though.

Even with faster reactions, NHL players aren't necessarily capable of being 100% in control of all situations, at all times Stands to reason that some players are faster than others. The slower" player, while able to compete faster than 99% of the population, is over matched.

Additionally, there are limits on human reaction time. A faster sport is clearly closer to whatever physiological limits exist. Reacting in time to stop a shoulder to head hit (that was meant for the chest) isn't necessarily possible at high speed.

All of which tie into the margin of error. At slow speeds, the time window to react to avoid a collision is larger. Even if I miss the optimum time, there's a still a reasonable window for a collision to be avoided. At higher speeds though, that margin of error is greatly reduced. The time window is so small, essentially only perfect timing avoids a collision.

So, your "speed is relative" blanket statement is only accurate to a point, and it certainly can't discount speed as a factor in these collisions. The margin for error at high speed is reduced. Good luck finding a physicist to discount that...

- Rod

I've played lots of rec league hocky, but there is no way I've ever played anything close to NHL speed. I've sat in row one during an NHL game and shuddered at how fast those guys move and how hard they can shoot a puck. I would be terrified to be on the ice with these guys. They are huge, they are fast and they are strong. It's a totally different game to anything couch taters like me have ever experienced.

A 'good two seconds' may seem like a long time in slow motion, but it is an instant on the ice.

Hockey is a tough game played by tough guys. Those hits seem horrific to a guy who has never been on the wrong end of them, but I expect most of the participants see them as part of the game.

I just can't agree with you Rod, Letowski had no chance. Unless you can see at 360 degrees at all times there is no way to prevent being blindsided. Letowski was aware and looking around and Colby came on fast from a rearward angle. Unless Letwoski just happened to be looking in that direction when it happened there was no way he could have picked it up.

I do agree with you on the legality of head shots though, doesn't change my opinion that some of them are dirty and that Stevens wanted a headshot and concussions more often than not.

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