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Fraser: The take on Chris Stewart's hit on Niklas Kronwall

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Kerry Fraser
11/17/2011 2:02:31 PM
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Got a question on rule clarification, comments on rule enforcements or some memorable NHL stories? Kerry Fraser wants to answer your emails at cmonref@tsn.ca!

Mr. Fraser,
 
I was just watching the Chris Stewart hit on Niklas Kronwall. Is there any responsibility for Kronwall to attempt to stay on his feet? I understand the ruling, but the diving in this league is getting out of control. I see it night in and night out. I understand the need for player safety, but I feel as if the sport is starting to look like soccer with all the flops. These guys are great skaters and large men to boot. When a little touch of a composite stick taps a leg and sends a pro athlete to the ice so easily, it is pretty disgraceful. Also, how long before you think a player is paralyzed because he turned his back at the last minute in attempt to draw a power play?
 
Thanks for your insightful thoughts on all of these topics,
Patrick McDevitt

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Patrick:

Oh my gosh, Kronwall stay on his...are you serious?

I was sitting having dinner at Boston Pizza in Edmonton with Theo Fleury, his brother Teddy and Winnipeg Jets first pick in the 1979-80 Draft, Jimmy Mann when I saw the play.  I jumped out of my seat and shouted that has to be a five-game suspension.

Let me start by saying that Chris Stewart has demonstrated to all of us that he is a hard-nosed, honourable player in the way he approaches and plays the game. Even though he might be a 'first time offender' (I dislike that phrase) with regard to this sort of disciplinary action the poor and reckless decision Chris made could have had catastrophic consequences to his opponent.  Chris Stewart needs to pay full measure for his actions as a deterrent in the future for himself and other players.

My view on the play differs with Brendan Shanahan and the Player Protection Committee for the following reasons.  Niklas Kronwall approached the puck on the side boards from an angle and looked up ice for an outlet as he anticipated gaining puck possession. (His approach from this angle likely saved him from serious injury)

Kronwall was alerted by his bench and/or closest teammate just prior to impact that he was about to receive back door pressure from Chris Stewart. As Kronwall veered slightly right to protect the puck and braced to engage in some form of contact, Chris Stewart totally eliminated Kronwall by launching him into the boards from close proximity with a full, hard push and extension of both arms. This was not a body check or the result of a battle!

The onus here is clearly on Chris Stewart to make a responsible decision as to the form of contact and degree of pressure that he exerts on Niklas Kronwall.  Stewart's pursuit of the puck began from the opposite side of the ice from a line drawn along the face-off spots and as such would have clearly been looking at the Kronwall's back and numbers throughout.

Stewart approach was unimpeded and with speed. Given the close proximity of Kronwall to the boards and the other factors I have mentioned Chris Stewart must come to the conclusion in advance that any excessive force exerted through a hard, full extension push from behind could result in serious injury to his vulnerable opponent.

I believe that the violence/velocity of the act and potential for injury to an opponent that results must be ruled upon.  It appears that too much weight is being placed on factors such as repeat offenses and resulting injury in explanations to justify lighter sentences from the standard we saw set during the pre-season and the beginning of the regular season.

Relative to your question Patrick, Niklas Kronwall didn't turn his back on this play in an attempt to draw a penalty as we have seen others do.  His puck pursuit from an angle as opposed to straight at the boards was a responsible decision on his part.

More to your point however, if Niklas Kronwall had suffered serious injury (or as you put it, 'paralyzed') would the suspension then be elevated as a future deterrent to Chris Stewart and others so they might make a responsible decision when confronted with these types of situations.

I say let's not wait for that for a serious or catastrophic injury to occur before upping the ante with regard to player accountability.  What say you? 

You can now follow Kerry Fraser on Twitter at @kfraserthecall!

Niklas Kronwall (Photo: Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)

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(Photo: Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)
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