Red and Black Hockey
by David Lee on 10/26/08 at 02:48 PM ET
A lot has been made of the devastating hit that Doug Weight laid on Carolina rookie Brandon Sutter last night. There are a lot of different opinions out there, and I thought it would be appropriate to offer my opinion. Not just as a Carolina Hurricanes fan, but a hockey fan.
What happened happened. Sutter was trying to make a fancy move, playing the puck off the boards to himself. He reached for the puck and put his head down for half a second. That’s all it took. He never saw Weight coming, and Weight had no way of anticipating that Sutter would lunge, lowering his head. Add the speed of the play into the equation, and it’s just a really unfortunate play.
In just about any other league, a penalty would have been called. Regardless of intent, a player has to be responsible with his shoulders and elbows, and he must not hit a player above the shoulders. The NHL doesn’t have any specific rules on blows to the head. By the letter of the law, this was a clean hit. It wasn’t interference, it wasn’t charging. It was just a huge open ice hit.
Some Canes fans, including one prominent blogger are upset with Doug and wish there would have been some form of frontier justice. I can’t board that train. Then again, some folks still haven’t let go of the Orpik/Cole incident.
I believe that Doug Weight could have opted for a pokecheck or some other “defensive” play against Sutter, who was absolutely flying. But he didn’t. He committed to playing the body, and it was unfortunate that it played out the way it did. Sutter made himself extra vulnerable by lunging, by putting his head down. There is no doubt in my mind that Weight intended to take Sutter off the puck without knocking him into next week. Unfortunately, that’s what happened.
I refuse to vilify Doug Weight, who is widely regarded as one of the classiest guys around. I haven’t heard anything yet, but I would assume that Weight has spoken with Sutter and the rest of the guys. Eric Staal’s post-game remarks notwithstanding, I don’t think anyone is holding anything against Doug.
The other part of this that I don’t want any part of is the whole frontier justice mentality. Everyone seems to think that Carolina should have made Dougie pay for what he did. Everyone wanted a donnybrook. Not me. If it had been any player on the Flyers or if it had been Sean Avery, then I would probably see it differently. This wasn’t something that Weight was looking for. He simply made an aggressive play that turned out very badly.
Now the league will review the incident, and if they are serious about cracking down on head-high hits, Weight will serve a short suspension. What has to happen, and what I’ve been yelling about for years now is that the league needs to call penalties for those hits. Regardless of intent. They do it in almost every other hockey league at every level. They do it in the NFL. It’s not about turning the game into a no-contact sport. It’s about player safety. It’s about reducing concussions and preventing Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. I’ve written about that here, and I HIGHLY reccomend the two-part piece published last December in the Toronto Star.
If there’s somebody to be mad at here, it isn’t Doug Weight. It isn’t the Carolina Hurricanes, who didn’t take Weight or the Islanders to task. It’s the NHL, who stubbornly refuses to take a serious stance against head-high hits.
As soon as details are available on Sutter, I’ll share them.
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About Red and Black Hockey
David Lee is a restaurant manager with an unused degree in political science. He can be found at Carolina Hurricanes games, Scrabble tournaments and indie-rock shows. Sometimes, all in the same day.