• Alexander Ovechkin and Bill Muckalt

    by  • March 15, 2010 • Uncategorized • 20 Comments

    Ted Leonsis has a lot to say about Alexander Ovechkin getting ejected from the Capitals game against the Blackhawks yesterday:

    When Ovechkin was tossed for basically pushing a Blackhawk player I received a bunch of emails. Some from our fans, some from Pens fans, and some from fans in Chicago. Suffice to say the opinions about the play ranged all over the map. I don’t think Alex should have received a game misconduct for that play. I don’t think he should miss our next game either. Matt Cooke didn’t get suspended or a penalty called on his hit last week, but Alex Ovechkin the league’s MVP did on that play? I don’t get it. But it is what it is. We will move on, play hard and we won’t “explain or complain”.

    The last sentence would be a little more stirring if he hadn’t spent the rest of the paragraph complaining. He also loses marks for the inexplicable quotation marks, but that’s a personal peeve.

    I’m surprised that there’s any opposition at all to this suspension, to be honest, although it would appear that Capitals fans are up in arms. Leaving aside complaints about the inconsistency of NHL officiating, I tend to think that this sort of offence is worse than a headshot. I don’t like to use the old line about someone never having played but I assume that it’s applicable to Leonsis and about 98% of the Capitals fanbase. If you haven’t played the game, you probably don’t have a good sense of just how dangerous the play that Ovechkin made was.

    When I started playing hockey, there was a real emphasis on removing hits from behind from the game. We had to watch a video starring Mike Bossy, as I recall. The Canadian Amateur Hockey Association was militant about hits from behind, to the point that there was a specific penalty for doing so that involved a game misconduct. I grew up in British Columbia and there were two terrible cases in 1990 and 1992 that illustrated the consequences of hits from behind in the area that Ovechkin hit Campbell:

    Unruh v. Webber, a case that arose out of a 1990 hit from behind:

    I conclude that the defendant Webber intentionally pushed or checked the plaintiff Unruh from behind, that Unruh was propelled head first into the end boards of the hockey rink and thus broke his neck. I do not suggest for an instant that Webber meant to inflict any injury. The push or check was thoughtless, not vicious. But Webber was, by his own admission, well aware firstly, that the push or check from the rear was banned under the rules and secondly, that a player employing the tactic might well cause a devastating spinal cord injury of the sort suffered by Unruh.

    Zapf v. Muckalt (yes, that Muckalt):

    The plaintiff broke his neck while playing in a Junior A hockey game. He is now a quadriplegic. He and the defendant, a member of the opposing team, were chasing the puck in the plaintiff’s end when as a result of a shoulder check by the defendant the plaintiff was propelled head first into the end boards.

    There isn’t a Canadian kid who grew up playing hockey in the 1990′s who didn’t have “no hitting from behind” drilled into him. While I understand that there are different rules in place in the NHL and there’s more of an acceptance of risk, plays like the one Ovechkin made are about as dangerous a play as you’ll see in hockey. Campbell – who broke some bones and is out for the year – got off lightly. Ovechkin should take the two games and consider himself lucky that Campbell wasn’t more seriously hurt. The Capitals fans (and owner) should climb down from the cross.


    20 Responses to Alexander Ovechkin and Bill Muckalt

    1. March 15, 2010 at

      I have that Mike Bossy video! “No hitting from behind” is mantra in minor hockey and it has been for over a generation.

      The uproar is ridiculous in light of not only the outcome but the possible outcome.

    2. Hawerchuk
      March 15, 2010 at

      I never saw the Bossy video. Manitoba was a late adopter of VCRs.

      I played my first contact season at Age 12 – fall of 1989. Even though what happened to Brad Hornung shocked everybody, it still hadn’t filtered over to minor hockey rules yet. So hitting from behind was just another penalty. I believe there was a mid-season rule change that made it a major penalty, and when we started the next season, it was an automatic game misconduct.

      What Ovechkin did…You just didn’t do that, unless you were trying to hurt a guy or start a fight. I could be wrong, but I don’t think I ever saw something like that happen in the five years I played contact hockey. (There was tons of crosschecking and straight-on head hits, just not what Ovechkin did…)

      So I agree with your appeal to authority. Boarding a guy from behind is like getting into a stick-swinging fight – your coach is going to ask what the f- is wrong with you and you might not play for the rest of the season. If there’s something that violates “the code”, this is it.

    3. koopa kid
      March 15, 2010 at

      Leonsis has done great things with his organization, and the fans love him, but he really comes off as a bit of a whiner when things like this come up.

      He also rarely makes any sense at all. What does being the league’s MVP have to do about reckless play? Did he actually just claim that Ovechkin should be above league discipline?

    4. Kyle M
      March 15, 2010 at

      Since about 1995 there have been stop signs on the back of the jerseys to remind kids not to hit from behind.

    5. March 16, 2010 at

      I find it really interesting to compare the Ovechkin and Lapierre hits. Lapierre’s was as dangerous as any, and I’m still surprised Ovechkin’s was deemed less so.

    6. March 16, 2010 at

      @Olivier: I don’t think that’s how it goes, though. It’s not that Ovechkin’s hit was half as dangerous or anything like that: he’s just more famous and talented. It’s the difference between Pronger getting eight games for stomping Ryan Kesler and Chris Simon getting 30 for doing the same to Jarkko Ruutu.

      As for the Mike Bossy video, funny enough, for my sport injury class, we’re reading a paper on spinal cord injuries that makes mention of it. Maybe I’ll check back once I’ve finished the paper.

    7. Alex Hemsky
      March 16, 2010 at

      Why does Muckalt mention that Ovechkin is the league’s MVP? Does he think it’s relevent when considering his punishment?

    8. Death Metal Nightmare
      March 16, 2010 at

      fuck this shit. Ryan Hollweg was running people from behind almost every night – a “good canadian boy” – and the hype or suspensions was never there.

      because its Ovechkin, every stupid blogger and B-rate hockey journalist is trying to type up some hockey morality and “respect” crap.

      where was the suspension for Craig Adams running Ovechkin head first into the boards a month ago on NBC Prime Time? rationalize your bullshit all you want. and oh, Adams is a good canadian boy too. oops.

      speaking of getting of crosses: get off your canadian cross.

    9. mc79hockey
      March 16, 2010 at

      Great post Death Metal Nightmare. Here’s the Adams hit. You’ll note McGuire saying that Adams should have had more:

    10. rob
      March 16, 2010 at

      I guess I fall into the 2% of Caps fan that actually have played hockey. I do not like the push and I do not like the injury. My guess is Ovechkin did not expect Campbell to reverse the puck, things just happen so fast. He probably needs to be more careful in that situation. From some of the responses here I am guess those of you that played hockey never got careless with your stick and hit some in the face, never cross checked anyone or did anything that might have caused another player an injury. Me? Well I sure have and at split second I had to make a decision I choose badly. It happens. I am recovering from a torn tendon caused by someone tripping me while I was taking a slap shot. Illegal? Yep, but not intentional, just careless.

      If we want to suspend hits from behind that result in contact with the boards I have no problem with it. I just want consistency.

    11. mc79hockey
      March 16, 2010 at

      From some of the responses here I am guess those of you that played hockey never got careless with your stick and hit some in the face, never cross checked anyone or did anything that might have caused another player an injury.

      If it’s not clear in the original post, I don’t think Ovechkin was trying to hurt him. I just think that he was reckless. Checks from behind in that area though, are different than sticks to the face.

      As far as consistency goes, I agree. I’d like to see all checks from behind in that area slapped with a suspension.

    12. rob
      March 16, 2010 at

      It probably was clear, unfortunately my brain is not to clear at the moment as I am taking pain killers after the bicep tendon injury ;).

      I did not mean to say a high stick is the same as a hit to the back, the point I was trying to make (poorly) was that things happen so fast and these decision are not as easy as some people make them out to be. Campbell just as easily could have turned with the puck and skated behind the net instead of reversing it. If Ovechkin tries to avoid the contact and Campbell goes end to end people would be screaming about how he should finish his checks. It is just a very fine line.

      Hits like that happen often, I am guessing I see at least one a game in the NHL. Just penalize them all, suspend them all and then we will all understand what the NHL is doing.

    13. March 16, 2010 at

      Good post, TD. I was trying to get at many of the same things which might not be a surprise given we both grew up playing hockey in B.C. around the same time.

      I’m still stunned so many people think that’s a good hockey play.

    14. mary
      March 17, 2010 at

      no one who knows hockey, plays the game, fan of the game, watches the game, doesn’t follow the game, owns a pair of skates, cannot skate, doesn’t live in a place where it snows, basically everyone with common sense knows that was not a hockey play (whether campbell’s skate got in a rut, was unaware of the tank behind him, was unaware of how strong ov is, was vulnerable, whatever. this wasn’t brian’s fault). the game is fast yes, and these are men, aggression is fine, all that crap, but ov had options. he pushed, slightly, forcefully, no one cares. he pushed. had the sequence been a little more developed he would have ended up either boarding or knocking campbell into the glass and probably getting away with it because he gets away with a lot, just like some of the players who really rough him up (although the kid can take it and is a beast on the ice). it is not a hockey play and it’s really sad to hear things like oh he’s bigger and stronger and therefore hurts more players, and some of the bs that’s coming from the caps organization. they should shut up and let this die.

      anyone who grew up in ontario during that time knows about this because for a long while the ohl was resistant, but the parents and even some of the players stood up, media picks up the stories and lo and behold league starts changing because otherwise the fans/parents and young kids would not be supportive of leagues who don’t discipline and support these senseless acts.

    15. dawgbone
      March 17, 2010 at

      Death Metal… who the fuck has ever defended Ryan Hollweg?

    16. March 17, 2010 at

      Doogie2K has written a terrific piece on this subject over at the Copper&Blue:


    17. Yankee
      March 17, 2010 at

      “Leaving aside complaints about the inconsistency of NHL officiating”

      But that’s -at least- half the reason Caps fans are upset.

      “I don’t like to use the old line about someone never having played”

      Then don’t.

      “but I assume that it’s applicable to Leonsis and about 98% of the Capitals fanbase. If you haven’t played the game, you probably don’t have a good sense of just how dangerous the play that Ovechkin made was.”

      If you made a good point in this article, it was lost when you senselessly offended 98% of the Capitals fanbase by relying on the canard about them all being bandwagon fans with no intelligence.

      How was this paragraph useful for anything other than an opportunity for insult?

    18. mary
      March 17, 2010 at

      well i don’t know about that percentage james pulled about 98% of caps fans, but then again he works down there, but i mean i just finished reading some caps fan blog page that he linked on his twitter, and aside from the fact that the commenters were very civil (not like some leafs fans) the first thought i had when i finished reading the comments was “are caps fans really this dumb?” and the funny thing is that they weren’t fanatics either. me personally i don’t see the problem here. it was a bad move. he made a mistake. it’s a costly mistake. the nhl hands out punishment at their own whims. he should have gotten the call. those caps fans were making the point that the ov play happens in all hockey games and that the players are coached to do that. give me a freaken break. that is one of the most bs reasonings, aside from some of the garbage coming from the top brass of the caps organization, i’ve ever heard. you know what anyone who watches or plays hockey knows that hits from behind have been happening for years. it’s one of the big reasons we’re always arguing about touch icing, no touch icing, the red line, etc. the players don’t get coached to make bad checks or moves. they are told to play hard and sometimes the play smart message gets through to the brains. unfortunately he made a bad choice when he had options and he pushed. so what. he’s not a villain even if he has past experience doing other stupid things. he plays the way he does all the time (unless he’s really injured or having an off night) and anyone who loves hockey loves how ov plays but everyone is right in that it’s not really a sustainable way to play the game, he’s gonna hurt himself, someone will be gunning for him. he had a choice in that instant to follow the puck. i’ve seen many players about to hit someone who’s unsuspecting and they peel off, even at the last second to hit the boards. ov wanted to hit campbell, not to hurt him, but because the team needed momentem, he needed momentum, the team had made some bad plays and chicago was dominating most of the pace of the game. the hit was made in a bad spot. brian wasn’t close enough to the boards/glass for ov to be boarding, and whatever happened to campbell’s skate that was stuck in a rut, he fell awkwardly, yet ov still pushed. he could have had a shoulder to shoulder hit. the game is fast is not an excuse. i don’t agree with some of the things people are saying about him or trying to malign him, and it’s frustrating when people who don’t know the game are saying crap, but it’s even more frustrating when actual people who know the game, have played it, are invovled in hockey in some way are defending his completely stupid and unecessary move. it was a mistake. it’s too bad it cost brian his clavicle. it’s also too bad that although a rule wasn’t broken, (whereas there are many rules to use to rectify what ov did) although some would argue that there’s an inherent rule in the game and book that the league did not enact for mark cooke’s headhunting on savard, that cooke got away with that and ov didn’t. they aren’t the same things and yet there are fans acting butthurt about the dumb way the nhl doles out punishment (stupid no? downie got $1000 for that leg lock on sidney). i would rather watch ov any time than matt cooke yet ov’s suspended and matt cooke stays. the other thing people compared it to was maxime lapierre’s hit (he’s also building upa reputation for himself) and they aren’t two of the same at all because the circumstances are completely different as the sequence progresses with the puck, the play by the net, towards the boards, past the blue line, etc…no wonder colin campbell has such a difficult job (felt bad for his son getting injured from a bad hit too), but i don’t think he’s blameless here either for the lack of strong ruling in the game. they are all to blame. the nhl has become a joke and i feel bad because the refs and players get caught in the middle. something needs to happen before all of this is too late.

    19. mary
      March 17, 2010 at

      also the fact that calls are based on injury or not injury is also a joke.

    20. mary
      March 17, 2010 at

      and also this whole pens got off easy and it’s crosby’s fault are just garbage. the nhl needs to set the record straight about hits or pushes from behind and these hooking calls or free hand calls. we need to make sure that everyone understands the rules, especially the players and the refs, and maybe we’ll all be better off when the level of hockey education raises a bit higher. there’s so much trash talking on the internet (like usual) in regards to what’s happened recently in the nhl, although dirty happens all around the nhl because most times there’s a game on a night and people don’t see it because not all games get attention, but with the media being the way it is if someone’s injured it’s big news. the only one’s who should be exempt from all this hoopla are the teams with the lowest penalty minutes.

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