Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Miller speaks out on Hjalmarsson hit that drew two-game ban

It was a busy Tuesday for the NHL. Not only did they take thrifty action against James Wisniewski but also banned Chicago defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson two games as well for this dangerous hit on Sabre right wing Jason Pominville that gave him a concussion. Pommer was taken off the ice on a stretcher in a game Buffalo lost 4-3 Monday night.

Is the suspension enough for what looked like a blindside hit just before Pominville had the puck? Legendary Sabre announcer Rick Jeanneret thought it was a hit from behind but it came more from the side. The thing is Pominville never had a chance and it was a severe hit on impact that crushed him into the boards. A scary sight. These are the kind of hits the league wants to eliminate. So, why only two games? Hjalmarsson doesn't have a track record for being a dirty player. It's his first suspension. It should also be noted that he was given a boarding major and game misconduct for his actions.

Still, it's awfully hard to agree with the punishment. He got the same ban as Wisniewski. Since when is a risky hit that causes severe injury the same as a silly gesture that's plain offensive? It doesn't make sense. No wonder Pominville's teammate Ryan Miller sounded off yesterday. Via Puck Daddy, here's what the rating Vezina winner had to say on Hjalmarsson's hit and blindside hits in general:

"No matter how badly Hjalmarsson feels, it's still an illegal hit. It still out our guy out and it's still suspendable in my mind. So absolutely needs to be punished. I don't care if it's unintentional. That's what we have to get away from hockey right now, is the culture of it; of I was trying to make a play, so therefore it's not my fault.'

"The hockey hit is to separate a man from the puck. Not anticipating the puck getting there and hitting him from behind and driving him into the boards. You have two things right there: The puck wasn't clearly there, there was anticipation of it, there's no separation, and he was hit from behind.

"I don't know if there was enough made of it, because Jason is walking out with just stitches. What if Jason had a fractured neck? We don't even know what kind of impact it's going to have with a concussion. So no matter how badly he feels, no matter if it's unintentional, we have to change the culture of it if we're ever going to change the situations we're seeing, which is guys on the ice bleeding and missing time with concussions. It's completely an unnecessary play. ... More people should be a little more outraged.

"God, when he left the ice, he was surprised he got kicked out. It's like, 'Are you serious?' I would have started skating towards the locker room if I were him. I'm glad he admitted to it, that he didn't mean to do it. But you have to change the culture sometime. I hope the league wakes up and sets a precedent for the year."
Miller makes some solid points about the way this league operates. He also criticized them for instituting the new blindside rule right before the playoffs, labeling it as 'PR.' Furthermore, he mentioned that it's Colin Campbell's job to make these tough rulings. The League Deputy who's been inconsistent leaving the NHL open to criticism.

Most notably, the eloquent Sabre netminder made sure to include Matt Cooke's dirty cheapshot of Bruins' star center Marc Savard that still has him out with concussion symptoms. He might not play at all this season. When it comes to concussions, you're dealing with the unknown. Who knows? It could be his career. Imagine that Cooke- who has a history with pushing the envelope- wasn't even suspended. What if Savard never returns? How bad would that look?

It's why we can't agree with Puck Daddy chief Greg Wyshynski on Hjalmarsson's suspension. Even if he infers that it wouldn't have even gotten anything if not for the stretcher, the fact was it was a dangerous check. The kind that need to be eliminated. Sure. Hjalmarsson didn't mean to injure Pominville. But nothing good was going to come out of that play. He just needs to be smarter. I doubt Jason had enough time to see him. Should it really depend on how hurt a player is? There's too much of an assertion. If they're serious about making hockey a safer sport, then any suspension on such scary hits must be more than what the Blackhawk defenseman got. Reputation withstanding.

This is exactly what's wrong. If anything, usually Campbell goes tougher when serious injury is caused. A five-game ban would've at least sent a message. Miller's right. Is this the year the league finally gets it right or will it take a life threatening incident for appropriate action to be taken. We certainly hope not.

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