Got a question on rule clarification, comments on rule enforcements or some memorable NHL stories? Kerry wants to answer your emails at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the PIT/NYR Round 2 series, there have been two separate occasions where Marc Staal has taken blatant shots to the head of Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby. In Game 3, Staal hit Crosby with a viscous crosscheck to the back of the head. I was shocked that a penalty wasn't even called on the ice! The league then came out the following day and said that no punishment would be handed down for the hit. The following night, in Game 4, Staal again went after Crosby's head. This time it was a blatant elbow. Again, it was from behind, to the back of the head, nearly knocking the helmet off Crosby's head. Again, there was no call on the ice, and no action taken by the league.
Can you explain to me how the league and officials, in this era of "no tolerance" for hits to the head, can allow this kind of thing to go on? How can there be no call on the ice? Obviously, since there was no action for the league, or penalty called, in Game 3, Staal figured he was cleared to do it again in Game 4. I mean, if the NHL doesn't care about the well-being of its marquee players, why should Staal?
Thanks for listening. Any light you can shed on this subject would be great!
The cross-check that Marc Staal delivered on Sidney Crosby was well beyond just a minor infraction (Video link) and worthy of at least a five-minute major and game misconduct. This aggressive cross-check delivered to the head area could not be considered an effort by a defensive player to contain, engage in a battle in battle or to clear an opponent from the front of the net. The blow did not start at the name plate on the back of the jersey and then rode up to the neck and back of the helmet. This forceful, full-arm extension cross-check went directly to the back of the neck/head of Crosby and should be considered an attempt to injure and worthy of a match penalty under rule 59.4.
For the sake of argument let's reverse the body position of Crosby where he and Staal are face-to-face. If that same force is delivered to the neck and chin of Sid he will most likely be spitting blood, 'chicklets' and perhaps even incur another broken jaw. I would sincerely hope that a match penalty would be assessed in that case and a player would be suspended for cross-checking an opponent in the face! I see a deliberate and forceful cross-check to the back of a player's neck and head to be similarly dangerous regardless of the fact it was delivered on a player with a well-documented history of concussions.
If you want to see an "old school" hit take a look at the major and game misconduct I assessed to Darian Hatcher in a game in Dallas just prior to the playoffs, when he delivered an elbow to the face of Jeremy Roenick. Roenick's jaw was dislocated, broken in three places and he had eight teeth cracked or broken. Roenick approached me on the ice spitting blood and teeth with his jaw wagging in the breeze as he attempted to say, "He 'broke' my f----n jaw!" Hatcher was suspended for seven games (including the Stars' first five playoff games) by Colin Campbell for the illegal hit. See it here.
John, you ask how these types of plays can be missed. The answer is there are too many "puck watchers" wearing stripes in these playoffs. Player safety is placed in jeopardy when these aggressive fouls are allowed to go un-penalized. This isn't "old school" officiating; just a lack of awareness.