With what’s going on at the GM meetings regarding the burning league issue regarding concussions and the institution of a new concussion protocol, it only makes sense that last night’s action on the ice saw more than a few incidents worthy of attention from the league. Boston’s Brad Marchand and San Jose’s Dany Heatley each have hearings scheduled with the NHL tomorrow regarding their reckless and dangerous hits.
It started off with Boston’s Brad Marchand delivering a textbook blindside shot to the head of Columbus’ R.J. Umberger (video). Marchand skated in from behind Umberger as he was skating through the neutral zone, sticking out his elbow connecting with the back of Umberger’s head. If ever there was a prime example for the brand of hit that Rule 48 (and common sense) intends to eliminate it’s this one and Marchand’s date with the league shows that they intend to do something about that. Marchand’s hit should likely earn him a three-game suspension from the league as similar hits this season have done.
Heatley’s chicken wing elbow to the face of Dallas agitator Steve Ott earned Heatley a meeting with the NHL and had Ott plenty steamed after last night’s game. Today he wasn’t any happier and Working The Corners’ Mark Emmons got Ott’s thoughts on what went down in last night’s game. If you missed it, Heatley’s elbow wasn’t the only one that caught Dallas’ ire as two hits from Douglas Murray delivered to Loui Eriksson and Tomas Vincour also got the ire of the team.
On what kind of hit crosses the line: “If you’re targeting a guy’s head, that’s my big issue. There’s no room for that. But if you hit a guy with a good, clean hit and he gets a head problem from that . . . that’s part of our game. I definitely don’t want to see hitting or fighting out of the game. Our game is what it is, and it’s a tough, tough game.”
On seeing players injured: “The worst part of the game is seeing a guy laying down on the ice and getting stretchered off. And nobody wants to be in that situation. So something has to be done.”
If it sounds a little backwards having Steve Ott, a player with a checkered past of his own sounding off on these sorts of plays, Ott’s well aware of where he’s coming from on these matters.
“I don’t want to sound like a hypocrite because, yes, I do have a past myself. I’ve been suspended and everything else. But there’s still a time and place for it all. Players still have to put an onus on each other, and you gotta draw the line somewhere.”
Give Ott some respect here as he gets where he’s coming from and understands that it comes off screwy having him be the voice of reason. If nothing else, the rest of Emmons’ article shows that Ott is starting to change his tune. Whether he’s honest about it or not remains to be seen in how he plays.
These two hits give the NHL an opportunity to, again, send a message that these kinds of hits won’t be tolerated. They’ve fanned on these opportunities in the past but now with the GM meetings wrapping up and hits to the head being in such focus, as well as Colin Campbell and Mike Murphy’s ability to mete out punishment, you wonder if now they’ll find a way to act out on their power to set an example.