When is the player being hit responsible for his injuries?

Jeff Blay: Things got a little heated between the Phoenix Coyotes and Los Angeles Kings in Game 2 of the NHL Western Conference Final. It was a very physical game throughout, although two specific plays stood out and have sparked debate among hockey enthusiasts. The first was Yotes captain Shane Doan’s hit on Kings forward Trevor Lewis, which resulted in a five minute boarding major and game misconduct for Doan. The other was a hit thrown by Martin Hanzal on Kings captain Dustin Brown, which also resulted in a major and misconduct. While both the hits were certainly dangerous to the players on the receiving end, they were also very different situations and we need to make sure we look at them separately. Doan’s hit, in my opinion, did not warrant a five minute major or misconduct, nor a suspension due to the fact he first pursued Lewis when he was facing him, and Lewis turned his back at the last second. Hanzal’s hit, on the other hand, was a prime example of what the NHL will not and should not tolerate. It was clearly from behind and he hit Brown into the boards from a distance, which is extremely dangerous. Both hits were unique and provide the perfect forum to ask the question, when is a player responsible for making sure he is prepared to take an oncoming hit, and when is it up to the player throwing the hit to either back off or recognize the hit could be deemed illegal.

Tim Kolupanowich: Well, on the Doan hit, Lewis was standing near the boards in control of the puck, looking to make a play. He turned to face the boards and protect the puck once Doan was already coming in for the hit and had no time to stop or get out of the way. To me, the onus is on Lewis on that play to get his shoulder down and take the hit properly, which is one of the first things taught when kids start playing youth hockey. Instead he did the cowardly thing and turned his back. With head injuries becoming such a major problem in recent years, I would like to see punishments for hits to the head and boarding calls, but plays like this one show the gray area. What do you do when the player receiving the hit puts himself in position to get hurt? Doan certainly deserved a penalty on the play, you just can’t get away with making an opposing player bleed, but in my opinion, he did not deserve a game misconduct. This is the highest level of hockey in the world, players should know how to properly take a hit and they shouldn’t be afraid to do so anymore. I don’t know if Lewis was trying to draw a penalty or if he was just being stupid, but if he had been seriously injured on the play, it would have been his own fault.

JB: Now, the Hanzal hit was definitely a suspendable play and the right call was made by the officials at the time. However, Hanzal received a mere one game suspension for his hit on Brown, which to me, was just as (if not more) dangerous a play as Byron Bitz’s hit on Kyle Clifford in the first round. Bitz got two games, which isn’t significantly more but, you would think Hanzal would have gotten at least that. In this case, Brown already had his back turned and was making a play with the puck when Hanzal came crashing in and hit a defenseless Brown, who was positioned at least a foot away from the boards. Do you think Shanahan was right with his one game call on Hanzal, or do you think more games were warranted? Maybe it’s a case of Hanzal not being known as a dirty player and the fact we’re in the final four of the Stanley Cup playoffs?

TK: It’s widely agreed that playoff games are more valuable than regular season games meaning a one-game suspension in the playoffs equals a two-game suspension in the regular season. Following that logic, you would have to believe games later in the playoffs are more valuable than games early in the playoffs which is why Hanzal only got half the games Bitz did for a hit that was, in my opinion, twice as bad. Personally, I don’t care what time of the year it is, suspensions need to be as consistent as possible. Clifford got up almost immediately, whereas I thought Brown’s season was over for a minute and was fully expecting a stretcher to come out again (And on a side note, how disgusting was it to see the Coyotes fans in the front row, banging on the glass and cheering for a guy who wasn’t moving?). Unfortunately, we see hits like this all the time which is why I believe it’s time to switch to hybrid icing. But back to your original point, I like that Shanahan saw the difference between the Doan and Hanzal hits and opted not to suspend Doan, but I would have like to have seen another game for Hanzal.

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