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.