Sunday, March 25, 2012

I'm Vexed

I fell in love because of hockey. On the very first date with a young lady in the late spring or early summer of 1994, as we were walking over to ride the Flume at a local amusement park, she casually asked "So, do you like hockey?" I knew in that moment that I would marry her. And I did, seven years later. Six years after that, we had our first child, a boy.

That boy loves his hockey. He's turned into a good skater for his age and has a great shot. But say he does make it to the NHL. If he's anything like his old man, he can expect to be between 5-11 and 6-1 and weigh around 180. In other words, about like Jeremy Roenick. Regrettably, Roenick is the exception, not the rule for underweight hockey players.

Pat LaFontaine, at 5-10 and 180, had his career effectively ended by a high hit to the head. Pierre-March Bouchard will have played only 40% of his games over the last three seasons when the regular season ends in a few weeks. Now Jared Spurgeon has been injured by a high hit. Thursday Alex Tanguay took the liberty of a high hit to Spurgeon. He led with his elbow. The principle point of contact was Spurgeon's head. Spurgeon did not put himself in a vulnerable position. Tanguay did not lead with his shoulder, he led with his elbow.

Rule 48 states:
48.1 Illegal Check to the Head – A hit resulting in contact with an opponent's head where the head is targeted and the principal point of contact is not permitted. However, 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.

There is no reason for Tanguay to lead with his elbow other than to target Spurgeon's head. Tanguay's elbow is the first part of his body to hit Spurgeon, and the elbow hits Spurgeon in the head. (In the video above, look at 0:29) As I noted above, Spurgeon doesn't put himself in a vulnerable position immediately prior to or simultaneously with the hit.

The fact that Brendan Shanahan and his cohorts thought this hit was completely legal is astonishing. Straight from the rulebook, this is exactly what the League was trying to prevent with Rule 48.

On twitter this morning, I asked Michael Russo of the Star Tribune if there was any reason given for the League letting Tanguay off the hook. I didn't get a response from Russo, but another Wild fan replied that it's because Spurgeon plays for the Wild.

This got me thinking: If by some miracle my son does make it to the Show, am I going to have to go all Archie Manning and provide a list of teams I want my son to play for? Will I have to vet the League to determine which teams are safer to play for?

I know Shanahan has said that he doesn't hate the Wild. But his actions are speaking louder than his words are. I'll be forever grateful to hockey to bringing my wife and I together, but I don't know if I can stay as loyal to hockey if this is how the NHL treats its most valuable assets.

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