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KK Members Blog

Is it time to eliminate hitting from the game?

11/02/2015 at 11:39am EST

With recent hits by Mark Stone and Dustin Byfuglien I think this is a good time to ask a question about body checking in general:

Should the NHL go back to the original rule?

In a recent Red Wings Broadcast Mickey Redmond pondered this very question. He spoke about eliminating the idea of finishing a check as most of those hits occur well after the puck has moved on and there is plenty of time to avoid the hitting the now puckless player. He stated the old rule was about separating the player from the puck, not simply throwing one's body around.

I searched for the NHL definition of a legal body check and found nothing. The NHL rule book is packed with infractions, but I could not find the official definition. I do remember hearing the definition ever since I became interested in the game, but I've never read the rule. I think that begs the question how can the NHL define an illegal hit if there is no definition of a legal one?

I did find a definition via the USA Hockey Rule Book:

The goal of the enforcement standard is to create an environment that enhances player skill development by reducing intimidating infractions designed to punish the opponent. This standard is designed to improve the proper skill of legal body checking or contact at all levels of play and will not remove the physical component from the game. A hard body check or using body contact/position (Body Contact categories) to gain a competitive advantage over the opponent should not be penalized as long as it is performed within the rules. The focus of the body check should be to separate the opponent from the puck.

The principles of this enforcement standard include the following:

  • The purpose of a body check is to separate the opponent from the puck.
  • Only the trunk (hips to shoulders) of the body shall be used to deliver a body check.
  • The check must be delivered to the trunk (hips to shoulders) and directly from in front or the side of the opponent.
  • Players who use their physical skills and/or anticipation and have a positional advantage shall not lose that advantage provided they use their body to check the opponent within the rules.
  • Players will be held accountable for acts of an intimidating or dangerous nature.

Notice the first statement in the list above: "The purpose of a body check is to separate the opponent from the puck." Also notice the rest of the clear definition of what is legal.

I would like to see the NHL go back to this clear cut definition of body checking. I would like to see all late hits called as penalties which are clearly defined as boarding and charging already.

I do not believe going back to this definition as a rule would eliminate the physicality in hockey, rather I believe it would eliminate the thugs who only make teams to "finish the check," words I grew up thinking were gospel to the game before I watched a classic game featuring the Broad Street Bullies in their most dominant years. I had heard about how they always finished their checks and made opponents afraid to go into the corners, yet there was Bobby Clarke with an opponent lined up along the boards. As I watched the play unfold, the opponent quickly passed the puck. Clarke was within inches of delivering a devastating blow when he quickly turned away, his attention on where the play was going, not on the player who was wide open for what today would be a legal finish of the check.

If the Broad Street Bullies could still be the most feared physical team in the NHL without the late hits many of us have grown up cheering for, why can't the hockey still be a physical game without those dangerous hits?

Those are my thoughts, what are yours? I yield the floor.

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