Tuesday, January 10, 2012

NHL as 'No Hit League' Marchand's Forward

Has the suspension of Boston forward Brad Marchand for five games for 'clipping' Sami Salo of Vancouver put the NHL firmly on the path to full Euro style, 'no hit' hockey?

Clipping is the act of throwing the body, from any direction, across or below the knees of an opponent. (see the full rule below)

Many Boston fans see the Marchand hit not as a clip, but as a clean hip check. For example, they say:

Johnny Bucyk was a master of the hip check, and also a two-time Lady Bing winner, but if his hip checks were judged by this standard he'd be considered a goon.
Brendon Shanahan explains in the following NHL video why Marchand was suspended for five games because of the hit.

Brad Marchand's hit on Sami Salo and Mason Raymond's hit on Brad Marchand side by side. Referee Dan O'Rourke was involved in both of these games.

Stanley Cup of Chowder:
Marchand Suspended 5 Games: Did the NHL Hurt Itself With This Decision? --
This week started off in rough fashion for the Bruins as disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan announced that Marchand’s hit on Sami Salo during Saturday's game warranted a five-game suspension for the young winger. Shanahan reasoned that because the shot was a dangerous, avoidable, predatory, from a repeat offender, and, at the end of the day, clipping. While others claim Marchand deserves the punishment and that the ruling is just, the call is still gutless. Beyond that, this ruling is the setup for horrible precedent. And as we all know, the league's actions going forward are to be performed in a manner that is set by the precedent it has made with prior cases...

This precedent leads us to two saddening conclusions:

1. We're seeing the transition of the NHL game from a North American style of hockey to a European style of hockey. No longer will hitting, fighting or being hard-nosed describe the sport; they are to be replaced by working the referees, finesse games and the really thin guy from the original Nintendo Ice Hockey game...
Big Bad Blog:
Suspended Brad Marchand responds to Alain Vigneault’s ‘threatening’ comments, Kevin Bieksa --
As for the rule that the hit was “clipping” — which is the act of taking a player out across or below the knees — Marchand still disagrees with both the officials and Shanahan, who called it such in the video explaining the situation.

“We brought it up,” Marchand said of letting the disciplinarian know his stance on the hit. “Clipping is what I believe it says when you hit the guy at the knee point, around the knee. We felt it was very clear in the video I got him right on the buttocks and it seemed very clear on the video that was the case. Maybe he viewed it differently and at the end of the day he makes the call.”
Boston Herald:
Brad Marchand frustrated by sentence --
What was frustrating for Marchand was that he felt he had clearance to do what he did, not just because there were numerous other instances of similar hits in previous seasons that were not penalized, but because he made a point of asking NHL director of safety Brendan Shanahan about those type of instances when Shanahan was in town last month.

“I’m a small guy, I play low to the ice and that’s a way that I’ve protected myself in the past and I just felt it was better safe than sorry,” Marchand said. “I brought it up to him and when I walked away from the conversation, he told me protecting yourself is OK in that situation. When that situation arose, I felt I was protecting myself and I was allowed to do it. That’s why I did it.” ...
Rule 44 - Clipping --
44.1 Clipping - Clipping is the act of throwing the body, from any direction, across or below the knees of an opponent.

A player may not deliver a check in a “clipping” manner, nor lower his own body position to deliver a check on or below an opponent’s knees.

An illegal “low hit” is a check that is delivered by a player or goalkeeper who may or may not have both skates on the ice, with his sole intent to check the opponent in the area of his knees. A player may not lower his body position to deliver a check to an opponent’s knees.

44.2 Minor Penalty - A player who commits these fouls will be assessed a minor penalty for “clipping.”

44.3 Major Penalty - If an injury occurs as a result of this “clipping” check, the player must be assessed a major penalty (see 44.5).

44.4 Match Penalty - The Referee, at his discretion, may assess a match penalty if, in his judgment, the player attempted to or deliberately injured his opponent by clipping.

44.5 Game Misconduct Penalty - A game misconduct penalty must be assessed anytime a major penalty is applied for injuring an opponent by clipping.

44.6 Fines and Suspensions – There are no specified fines or suspensions for clipping, however, supplementary discipline can be applied by the Commissioner at his discretion (refer to Rule 28).

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  • Section 335 said...

    The NHL has not choice but to eliminate all intentional plays which pose a significant risk of causing a concussions. A low hit that intentionally causes a player to flip is such a play. My only regret is that the players were not warned in advance about this. Marchand has every reason to be upset that he was not warned.

  • jb said...

    I think this ruling will have a chilling effect on players throwing hip checks. If they risk a 5 game suspension for throwing a check that puts a guy on his head then they will not do it.

    How can a player how skate towards an opponent along the boards and dare bend their knees before throwing a hip check? There's no way to calculate that quickly if the guy you're going to hit is tall and has a high center of gravity such that he might go head over skates. No way. Consequently we will see fewer hip checks from now on.

    Mike could list the Rangers d-men that were crowd favorites from days past, exactly because they threw hip checks that flipped guys.

    I guess everyone wants us to play like they do in Europe.

  • Section 335 said...

    I do not agree. All that is being done is telling players to go higher. For someone like Marchand, that might be a problem - but not the typical defender.

    A hip check at or near the waist is still effective, and will still flip a player, but not with the same force. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0tACr-XpM-E

  • Section 335 said...

    One more point, and I think this is important. Marchand lied and said he was trying to protect himself. He obviously was not. I think that pissed Shanny off. If he told the truth, and said he was mislead, the suspension might not have happened.

  • jb said...

    I think most of the hip checks in this youtube video of NHL hip checks are now illegal under the new standard that Brendan Shanahan has laid down. I really do not think most players will want to lose 5 games of pay to test the standard. It is way too much money these days, to risk it. The game is too fast to make a guess if it's too low or not. Also, I think human nature would be to go low if you are throwing one.

    Additionally, say you throw a high 'clean' one and the guy flips and gets a concussion anyway. Play is stopped, the player is sent to the box or out of the game wondering if he will be suspended.

    Another wild card is will the refs now call most hip checks a clip? So may be a player doesn't get suspended, but just gets a two minute minor.

    The risk/reward ratio has been skewed in favor of not taking the risk of throwing a hip check.

  • jb said...

    Another point regarding the risk/reward ratio - say you are a defenseman who has thrown hip checks. Say you throw 1 hip check ever 3 games, or about 27 a year.

    You have to ask yourself is it worth risking a 5 game loss of if just 1 of those 27 checks is deemed two low and the guy gets hurt. That is totally, not worth it. The player is put in the position of throwing 27 perfect hip checks that are not too low. I think most players will say the hell with with those odds I'll just go with straight shoulder checks.

  • Section 335 said...

    If it turns out you are right, and the hip checks stop, I will have to say you were right and agree with you.

  • jb said...

    I would hope hip checks stay a part of the game, but I have my doubts. A couple more thoughts on why I think they will probably go the way of the bare-face goaltender:

    In the video discussing the Marchand suspension Brendan Shanahan says he is head of the NHL's "Department of Player Safety." I do not know exactly when the NHL created this department, but it is rather recent. And the title says it all -- player safety.

    I think we could both agree that a player getting flipped on the ice is not a safe thing. Especially with all the recent concern about concussions, etc. The hip check with a flip is almost by definition an "un-safe" play. Shanny cites a "flip" with injury as being a factor in the suspension. A flip is an invitation to a concussion if the guy lands on his head.

    Therefore, I don't see how the league can let flips continue. It is clearly an unsafe, albeit spectacular play.

    Also, looking back at my argument, I realize I overstated the 5 game suspension punishment. Marchand got 5 games because he was a repeat offender. So initial offenders obviously would get a 1,2,3 game suspension, based on severity. But, I still think the league would be happy to eliminate hips and flips.