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Hello Mr. Fraser,
Can you tell me what the difference is between the hit Tuesday evening by Daniel Briere (for which he got a minor and later scored a goal) and the hit by Milan Lucic for which he was ejected from the game?
In my eyes, Jaroslav Spacek was facing the Bruins end when he dumped the puck in and then turned his back to face the glass and was hit, whereas Briere hit a player in the back who didn't turn.
To me, Briere deserved a penalty and Lucic did not!
Thank you for your thought provoking question Ian!
While, in a perfect world, judgments should be determined by the act as opposed to the result, this is quite often not the case. A "smoking gun" (in this case, the resulting injury to the face of Spacek) can provide necessary and crucial evidence for a more severe sentence to be imposed! We see this concept applied by the referees on the ice, as well as through the supplementary discipline process to determine if player suspensions are not only warranted but imposed.
The resulting consequence of a hit is just one factor to consider, albeit the most important piece of evidence, when applying Rule 41.1-Boarding; (Quoted from NHL Official Rules 2010/2011) "There is an enormous amount of judgement in the application of this rule by the Referees" to ultimately determine, "The severity of the penalty, based upon the degree of violence of the impact with the boards, shall be at the discretion of the referee."
Injury to the face or head is specifically referenced in Rule 41.2 Game Misconduct Penalty; "When a major penalty is imposed under this rule for a foul resulting in an injury to the face or head or an opponent, a game misconduct shall be imposed."
So we have a "smoking gun" in the Lucic hit when blood appeared on Spacek's head while no apparent injury was sustained to Niedermayer after being boarded by Briere.
Something else my quick eye detected on the Briere hit was that at the point of impact, Danny Briere ran into the exposed elbow of Rob Niedermayer with his face.
Fortunately for Niedermayer (and Briere) it decelerated some of the force with which Briere intended to apply on the hit. The application point of impact caused Niedermeyer to fall into the boards in more of a sideways manner to perhaps avoid injury and a five-minute major penalty to Briere.
Even though Jaroslav Spacek put himself at risk by turning toward the glass after releasing the puck on a dump in, the upward force exerted by Milan Lucic resulted in a ‘face- plant' into the glass of Spacek even as Jaroslav raised his hands in defence.
The sheer size difference between Lucic and Briere and the resulting force each of them generated was also a factor on the end result of each hit. I would like to make you aware of one last location to focus your attention when observing hits of this nature in the future; namely the feet/skates of the player doing the hitting!
While everyone tends to focus on the point of impact in high hits the set up of the check is really crucial in where contact is ultimately made. When the ankles stiffen and knees straighten force and energy is transmitted in an upward fashion. This either carries the recipient of the check up into the glass or contact is made high and to the head of the intended receiver when the skates have left the ice! You will see that this occurred in the Lucic-Spacek hit.