by Jon Jordan on 03/16/11 at 11:50 AM ET
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.
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