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Okay Kerry, defend your boys. Why no call on Johnny Boychuk's hit on Jonathan Toews in the second period on Saturday night? And even though there was no call, isn't that hit exactly what the league is trying to get rid of? Doesn't it warrant a suspension?
I only defend "the boys" when I believe they are right. Rest assured there have been many occasions when they have not been very happy with me for disagreeing with one of their calls through this column. In spite of this, I continually answer hockey fan questions with honesty, fairness and my expressed opinion.
I am not in favour of any contact that is delivered to the head of an opponent; accidental or otherwise! I would like nothing better than to see it totally eliminated from the game for the sake of every players' safety and future health. Even though the league is making an effort to provide for player safety the reality is that much more needs to be done on all fronts to change the dangerous hitting culture we see within the game. No one is going to change it prior to game six of the Stanley Cup Final. We have to deal with the current rules and a standard of enforcement, both on and off the ice, which can often be described as inconsistent.
Jonny Boychuk certainly deserved a penalty for elevating his hands to deliver a hit on Jonathan Toews. That action (hand/gloves near head,) given the circumstance with which it was delivered, constitutes a minor penalty for roughing. Boychuk's hands appear to contact the name plate on the back of Toews sweater and ride up.
While I recognize that a two-fisted glove hit can do considerable damage when delivered with velocity, the positioning of both players just prior to the contact must be taken into account. The language of Rule 48 (Illegal Check to the Head) explains that, "in determining whether such a hit should have been permitted, the circumstances of the hit, including whether the opponent put himself in a vulnerable position immediately prior to or simultaneously with the hit or the head contact on an otherwise legal body check was avoidable, can be considered."
Jonny Boychuk did not use his elbow to make contact with Towes' upper body or head which, as we have seen in some cases, result in a suspension. I don't believe Boychuk targeted Toews' head nor did he even intend to strike Toews as high as he did. In the fast action of real time, Jonathan Toews turned his body exposing his back to Boychuk in addition to lowering his posture considerably just prior to the hit being delivered. This last second alteration resulted in Boychuk's illegal hand use on the intended hit to ride up and make contact to the neck and lower part of Toews' head.
A precedent has been set not to suspend a player when his opponent alters his body posture significantly just prior to a hit that results in some contact to the head. I see this play no differently.
You and I can only hope that over the remaining summer months real consideration will be given to tightening up the standard which could greatly reduce contact to the head.