Kukla's Korner

Have We Exhibit “A” in the NHL vs. Boarding?

Before reviewing the hit and rendering your own verdict, take a step toward immediately leveling the playing field by forgetting that the incident in question involves Sean Avery of the New York Rangers. (Debating his value to the game is irrelevant and considering any individual’s prior history of inappropriate action is not the intent here anyway.)

Once that’s been taken care of, study the hit – which resulted, so far, in nothing more than a boarding minor for the now-unnamed aggressor – and make your ruling:

On the very night after the NHL GMs called for tighter enforcement of boarding and charging penalties after convening for a second day in Boca Raton, should not this particular hit stand as exhibit A for boarding in the trial against exactly what the managers would like to see as little as possible of in the game?

Micheal Haley’s numbers are clearly visible to our nameless perpetrator, who does not at all let up and follows through on his check, sending Haley violently into the boards face-first. Haley is wobbled thereafter and appears to play a quick round of “shake the cobwebs”, often a visual indicator of a concussion. (Haley did remain in the game – and even put forth his own evidence against boarding calls later on, receiving a minor himself for a similar play on Brandon Dubinsky – but would it be at all surprising if we learned that he was concussed on the hit in question in the coming days?)

Granted, no new specific legislation has been ordered thus far. Instead, a generic call for a more stringent standard on boarding and charging calls was the consensus opinion held as a beneficial move for player safety and the greater good of the game of hockey. With that in mind, it remains to be seen if this particular hit can be met with any increased level of enforcement, in terms of supplemental discipline, as it happened just hours after the collective call for a crackdown on plays of this ilk.

But, with yet another chance to make a statement at a time when so many are consistently calling for just that, we’ll get a good idea as to just how seriously we can take the NHL’s push to get this type of play out of the game in very short order.

Was this the worst instance of boarding anyone’s ever seen? No. Hardly. But it shouldn’t take an extreme example, or one in which a player is severely injured, to make the point.

This was, however, textbook boarding – a display of a player taking advantage of a vulnerable opponent, rather than recognizing said vulnerability and letting up, you know, out of respect for the other’s well-being.

That there were other questionable hits last night, in the Dallas/San Jose and Boston/Columbus games, specifically, gives Colin Campbell and company plenty of other opportunity today to advance the budding player safety initiative, but neither of those plays should take anything away from this one either.

Since boarding and charging were called to the principal’s office on their own just yesterday, this hit right here should serve as the standard moving forward.

Or not… But be forewarned of the risk of using anything more extreme as the bottom line standard for what is unacceptable…

Your move, NHL.

JJ on Twitter

Filed in: New York Islanders, New York Rangers, | Beasts of the Southeast | Permalink



I have to agree with you JJ that this wasn’t the worst boarding ever, but one that should be used as an example regardless of the perp. There should have been some let up and it should have been a 5 not a 2 minute penalty. The NHL just needs needs to walk the walk and not just talk the talk. Punish players consistently across the board as they did with Trevor Gillies, which was deserved.

Posted by Hockey2219 on 03/16/11 at 12:07 PM ET

scotts0's avatar

I’m going to the give the unnamed checker the benefit of the doubt and say that he probably felt that the player who was on the receiving end of the check was going to turn in towards the puck, which would also mean turning into him…too bad he didn’t. 

But since the player who was on the giving end of that check is named what he is named, that means that he’s probably going to get thrown out of the league and sent to mandatory anger management…again.  I was actually watching this game and right after this check took place, the tv camera’s shot to Tortorella and anyone with any kind of ability in reading lips got a good laugh when I believe Torts said “*#$%@& *#$%@&”, and then something else that was directly referring to the unnamed player…sorry,  had a few beers so I may not be exactly right on the statement.

Posted by scotts0 from New York on 03/16/11 at 12:16 PM ET


Bottom line is you don’t follow through with a check like that if the player hasn’t turned to the side. Avery made sure he pressed him hard up against the boards, I mean unnamed player made sure… The same unnamed player also cross checked an opposing player in the face off of the face-off in the final two minutes of the game.

Posted by Hockey2219 on 03/16/11 at 12:36 PM ET


We’ll see if Colin Campbell is going to grow some balls enough to call this one. I’m guessing he won’t.

Posted by VAHockeyFan on 03/16/11 at 12:47 PM ET

Jon Jordan's avatar

scotts0: I still can’t believe the player to whom you’re referring and John Tortorella have co-existed for this long…

Thanks for the responses so far, folks. I know it’s not easy to try not to consider the player in question but I truly believe this is the type of boarding call that should be the standard, if the league is serious here.

This time, Avery’s not the point at all. The example would stand whether he was involved or not, obviously.


Posted by Jon Jordan from Tampa, FL on 03/16/11 at 12:48 PM ET

Jon Jordan's avatar

VAHockeyFan: My bet’s with you.

I’m only taking such an interest, really, because of the timing of all of this on the very day the issue of being more strict on boarding/charging is brought up.

Some might be surprised, given my recent takes on Chara/Pacioretty but this is a much different subject, in my opinion, given the specificity of it all and what not.


Posted by Jon Jordan from Tampa, FL on 03/16/11 at 12:52 PM ET


Though I am loath to suggest taking any ideas from the NBA, perhaps the NHL should keep track of these types of hits and start giving increasing suspensions at different milestones like the NBA does for technical fouls, such as 1 game for your fifth such penalty, two games after your 8th, etc. (Obviously, I am not wed to the milestones and punishment, just giving it as an examle)  Players make mistakes, assume the other player will turn, things like that, so this idea would punish those who repeatedly make these types of hits.

Posted by JDLink on 03/16/11 at 01:03 PM ET

scotts0's avatar

JJ, according to my Rangers fans friends, Avery only plays 4 or 5 minutes a game.  To answer your question, I guess it’s one of those things where no other team will even consider taking him, so they’re kinda stuck with him.

Posted by scotts0 from New York on 03/16/11 at 01:08 PM ET


What happened to the Sean Avery that was an effective hockey player, but a big douche and is now a guy that can’t be effective because he’s busy being a douche? Torts seems to be at wits end with him and Avery seems to have lost his way completely.

Posted by hockey1919 from mid-atlantic on 03/16/11 at 01:20 PM ET


I don’t see how boarding penalties can be addressed until the NHL deals with players turning to the boards (when they’re lined up for a hit) to try and draw a penalty. You really can’t have one without the other. If boarding were, for instance, an automatic 5 min major, we’d quickly see guys putting themselves in neck-breaking territory on purpose every time they were down 2 goals in the 3rd. One cannot be cracked down on without cracking down on the other. Heck, Shawn Horcoff did this the other day down 3-1 and it’s only a minor right now.

What I’m talking about didn’t look to have happened here, but it sure as heck did on Clutterbuck’s hit on that Islander scrub.

Posted by steviesteve on 03/16/11 at 01:38 PM ET

Hank1974's avatar

You can’t avoid who did the hit. Even if I didn’t know who he was, the fact that he immediately gets up to see who’s going to fight him, tells you he knew he did something wrong.

And this is also a good time for me to get on my soap box about the uselessness of fighting. Konopka is RIGHT THERE, and didn’t do anything!

That’s why goons are useless in today’s NHL. They only fight other goons.
Avery and every other pest wouldn’t be pulling these shenanigans if the fighters on the ice took them to task.

Konopka should have rag-dolled him for that hit. Instead, Avery skates away unscathed and because he wears a Rangers uni, will get no more than a game for his trouble. IF THAT.

Campbell failed to suspend or even fine him when he two-handed Mike Komiserek twice in October (even though Mike Cammeliri got 1-game for doing the exact same thing the night before).

Biggest problem with the NHL is that the players don’t feel they need to have any respect because there isn’t a strong figure in the NHL office that will actually discipline them for pulling this kind of garbage.

Posted by Hank1974 on 03/16/11 at 01:39 PM ET


Konopka would have gotten ten games if he fights Avery in that situation, and I think you are confusing Konopka with Gillies. Konopka has a lot of fights, but he doesn’t go out just to create mayhem, he is actually the Islander’s best faceoff man. His biggest problem is he doesn’t know when to say no to a fight and is always willing whether the situation helps his team or not.

Besides, your missing the main point of suspensions, Avery at times can be a useful hockey player and his hit from behind was a “hockey” play so he shouldn’t be suspended at all. The big deterent is suspending the goons for ten games at a clip to set an example for the guys that will never be punished.  Avery should only be suspended if he says something stupid in the media. Remember sticks and boarding may break your neck, but words are worth a six game suspension.

Posted by hockey1919 from mid-atlantic on 03/16/11 at 02:07 PM ET

Hank1974's avatar

I’m not saying Konopka is like Gillies. I know he’s a serviceable player.
My point is, he’s a tough guy and an enforcer. If that were Probie, Avery would be eating out of a straw for a week.

And I didn’t mean for Konopka to hit Avery from behind like Gillies did. He should have dropped the mitts, grabbed him and throttled him.
The most he would have gotten was 1-game as I’ve seen people do that on ‘clean’ hits.

And I don’t care what anyone says, that’s not a ‘hockey play’. At no point did the Islander player see Avery and then turn at the last minute. He was facing the boards the entire time. Avery hit him from behind. He could have hit him from the side, or attempted a poke check.

I’m also getting sick and tired of hearing how the victim is at fault all the time. “You need to protect yourself!”.
Hitting from behind is illegal so excuse the victim for not expecting to be hit while facing the boards. Just like I don’t expect to be stabbed and lit on fire for walking down the street. I guess the onus was on me to make sure I was aware there was a lunatic in the area with a knife and a gas can.

Posted by Hank1974 on 03/16/11 at 02:21 PM ET


Probert didn’t live with the instigator rule and in a 0-0 game in the first period I doubt he would have made his coach too happy to give up the PP. Enforcers are only allowed in the current NHL to enforce amongst themselves.

My “hockey” play statement was sarcasm, since that is the excuse most often sited why some guys are allowed to attempt to cripple, but aren’t “goons.”

The onus on you is to wear flame retardent clothing and not polyester, but I agree.

Posted by hockey1919 from mid-atlantic on 03/16/11 at 03:01 PM ET

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