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Alex Ovechkin's hit is far from controversial

Mar 14, 2010, 4:30 PM EDT

I don’t want to hear about any conspiracy.

I don’t want to listen to any talks about referee bias, or how the NHL has an agenda towards any team or player.

None of that factored into this situation. In fact, I think the big issue here is that the referee’s actually got the call right, something that we’re not used to seeing lately.

Alex Ovechkin committed a careless transgression, pushing Brian Campbell from behind and head-first into the boards. It wasn’t dirty, it wasn’t intentional but according to the rule book the NHL currently has in place it warranted a major penalty. And when it comes to the rule book, a major when it comes to boarding is an automatic game misconduct. According to Rule 42:

42.3 Major Penalty – The Referee, at his discretion, may assess a major penalty, based on the degree of violence of the impact with the boards, to a player or goalkeeper guilty of boarding an opponent (see 42.5).

42.4 Match Penalty – The Referee, at his discretion, may assess a match penalty if, in his judgment, the player or goalkeeper attempted to or deliberately injured his opponent by boarding.

42.5 Game Misconduct Penalty – When a major penalty is imposed under this rule for a foul resulting in an injury to the face or head of an opponent, a game misconduct shall be imposed.

No comparing this hit or penalty to the Matt Cooke hit. As dumb as it is, the NHL does not have a rule in place that says what Cooke did is illegal. Ovechkin’s hit? Well, it’s spelled out right above me that Ovechkin’s hit was illegal and it was punished as such. Brian Campbell was injured and knocked out of the game, which made Ovechkin’s hit ramp up a bit on the severity scale. And when a major is assessed, it’s an automatic suspension.

There is no debate here. None.

Ovechkin will also be suspended for this hit. He faces an automatic one-game suspension since this is his third game misconduct of the season, and he most likely will get more. Maxim Lapierre was suspended four games but his hit was worse — his arms were extended and it was a much more violent push. So you have the automatic one-game suspension and perhaps more, but considering the hit wasn’t necessarily violent — or clearly intentional — then perhaps the NHL just leaves it at that.

[Update] Puck Daddy points us to a loophole in the rule books, in which after 41 games have passes without a boarding penalty since the last misconduct, then the previous misconduct shall be wiped from the record. This past game was No. 42.

I also don’t want to hear an argument about how it was a hit (or push) from the side. Here’s the evidence that it clearly was a push from behind.[End Update]

Now, there’s some other issues to cover in regards to this hit. Here’s video of NBC’s Mike Milbury and Pierre McGuire debating whether the NHL is “becoming soft”.


I don’t see how making stricter rules to protect the safety of the players on the ice means the NHL is becoming soft. We’ve gone over this numerous times before, but the game of hockey is constantly evolving. The rules that were in place and worked for so long are not as applicable as the once were, and there needs to be better legislation in place that standardizes hits and subsequent punishment.

I understand the sentiment that we don’t want hockey to become any less physical, but for anyone that watched the Olympics it’s obvious that hockey can be entertaining and physical when ALL head shots are illegal.

What I don’t get is how this hit had absolutely nothing to do with head shots, and is a clear cut case of boarding. Was it a dirty play? Not at all, it was just careless.

Ovechkin will be punished according the rules that are in place. Do we need better rules in place for the number of other dangerous hits that are sidelining players around the league? Of course we do, and at least the NHL is trying to do something about it. It may be too little, too late but there’s change on the way.

But all that has no bearing on this hit. No conspiracy, no controversial rules. Just a boarding penalty that resulted in an injury, a game misconduct and what should be a suspension.

Now if the NHL doesn’t hand down an appropriate suspension? Then we can start talking about that conspiracy…

  1. Nick - Mar 14, 2010 at 4:22 PM

    Take a look at the rulebook pal. It’s not an automatic suspension bc of the cumulative GM’s. Read the entire rule.

  2. Jimmy - Mar 14, 2010 at 4:35 PM

    Maybe Ovechkin should be suspended….after all, earlier in the period he clearly made the the rut in which Campbell’s skate was caught. He also snuck into the Blackhawk’s dressing room and ran a stone over toe of Campbell’s blade. The combination of a push and another player catching his edge is clearly suspension-worthy.

  3. Gimme a break - Mar 14, 2010 at 6:59 PM

    Yeah, let’s suspend the rut in the ice …. sheesh! Let’s also suspend Olvie’s Mom for making him the way he is. Morons abound.

  4. 4 to 6 games, IMO - Mar 14, 2010 at 7:09 PM

    It looks to be 4-6 games suspension, given the call on the play by the ref, the accuracy of that call, the danger presented to Campbell, the precedent (just two weeks ago, with Montreal’s Lapierre) and Ovechkin’s record. Looks like Ovie has just handed Crosby the Richard Trophy.
    Time for the NHL to walk the walk and not just coddle its marquee player(s).

  5. DKHman26 - Mar 14, 2010 at 7:16 PM

    There is no “clear” rule that states Ovechkin’s hit should have been a game misconduct… I didn’t see any indication anywhere that Campbell hurt his “head or face”. He goes shoulder first into the boards. Anyway, there should be no suspension because Ovie wasn’t trying to hurt the guy, and as stated above, it’s not Ovie’s fault the guy toe-picked and threw himself into the boards.

  6. breaklance - Mar 15, 2010 at 12:58 AM

    And now let me digress your so astute points…
    -Ovechkin made contact on both the shoulder and back of Campbell’s body using both hands to force Campbell to the boards.
    -I can see the major penalty, maybe. But being as Campbell did not go head first into the boards, and managed to brace himself prior to and during the hit, I’d of gone with a double minor.
    -Malicious intent is clearly perspective. They DO have a penalty for what Matt Cookie did, you just pointed it out. Malicious intent to injure a player. Hitting a player above the red goal line typically is not a dangerous play.
    -Game misconduct when the player’s head or face is injured. Holy cow, another penalty they could of given Matt Cooke. But I digress, Campbell went shoulder first into the boards and appeared to be holding his arm/shoulder after the hit, not his head or face.
    Now the guy may have been felling, but Ovechkin did certainly “help” him more into the boards. Dangerous play, yes. Accident, yes. Does it matter, who knows. Now others are pointing to the LaPeirre hit in which he cross checked a guy from behind head first into the boards…um have you people watched that hit? I has no similarities to the Ovechkin hit. Furthermore…watch Craig Adams do the exact same hit to Ovechkin in a prior meeting this season…No Ovechkin wasn’t hurt but should that mean there wasn’t a penalty. No. Some of us were calling for Craig Adams head, but nothing was called or done to Adams. So there.
    Personally I think that Ovechkin will be made an example of for all the wrong reasons…now that Steve Downie hit a lot of people are not looking at…the one were he slew foots Sidney Crosby very blatantly and almost snaps his leg backwards…yeah that won’t result in anything at all.

  7. Disp350 - Mar 15, 2010 at 9:55 AM

    Whats to discuss? The refs made the exact call they should have made. What do you think, he is the first superstar to get tossed from a game and face a suspension? Even though I am from the Phila. area and a hug Flyers fan, I like Ovechkin much better than Crosby because he plays the game physically and does not cry to the officials every time he goes down. He was clearly in the wrong on this play and will take the penalty and possible suspension, whatever it is. And his next game back he will go right back to his style of play.

  8. JustinM - Mar 15, 2010 at 9:56 AM

    I don’t think “digress” means what you think it means.

  9. Colonel - Mar 15, 2010 at 10:47 AM

    As earlier stated, Matt Cooke’s hit was not against any existing rules. He did not leave his feet. He did not raise an elbow. He did hit a player who just shot a slapshot and was off balance a bit, happened to catch his head. I didn’t necessarily like the hit, but it isn’t Colin Campbell’s job to make the rules, he enforces them. Ovechkin’s hit was against a long standing NHL rule. He violates the charging (leaving your feet) rule regularly but no one ever complains about that. Ovie needs to be punished before he paralyzes or kills someone.

  10. Ovie is Dirty - Mar 15, 2010 at 11:07 AM

    This is the third game misconduct that Ovechkin has had this year. It was a blatant shove in the back. You have a responsibility as a fellow professional athlete to protect yourself and others from serious injury. Soup broke his clavicle and his ribs. He is lucky that that’s the only thing that broke, it could have been his neck if he hadnt turned. The NHL isnt going soft but I’m tired of seeing to many teams lose star players due to dirty hits to the head and boarding calls. Ovie got kicked out of the game which he deserved and maybe he should be suspended the rest of the season since Soup wont be able to play the rest of the season. If players wont police themselves on the ice, then the league has to.
    Mike Milbury is an idiot and has no place on TV. Bring back Jeremy Roenick.

  11. Anonymous - Mar 15, 2010 at 11:15 AM

    I have been reading some responses on various websites about the Ovechkin hit and all the hubbub about these different types of recent hits. For starters, its very difficult to figure if a player had any bad intentions. As a Caps fan, I doubt that Ovi was acually going after a player; so intention really needs to be thrown out unless it was obvious.
    That being said, I feel that the play resulted in a dangerous situation and Ovechkin needed to be penalized. I thought being tossed from the game was excessive, but getting either a 5 minute major or a double minor would have been completely understandable. Campbell, however, did seem to trip up on something at the end that made the play look worse than it was, for the record.
    What cracks me up is you have these sports writers who act like they know the rule books, (when they clearly don’t! Nor do they have solid references to go to, presuming their references even exist) and the fans have to correct them. You have Penguins fans jumping all over the story, whining, JUST like Crosby and Lemieux have both done their entire careers, and its not even about them!
    I can respect talent better than most. Sidney Crosby is a great hockey player, through and through. He is very complete and he knows how to best help his team whatever way is needed. That being said, he’s like a Jacques Lemaire team. They do what’s needed to win, but just barely more fun to watch then paint drying…
    Bottom line, Pens fans, SHUT it! Caps fans, don’t feed them! Let’s just watch what happens and enjoy! Hopefully the NHL can make a decision for head injuries that helps the sport and protects the players, not just the ones bringing in the most money.
    Does anyone want to talk about how the Hawks got trounced after taking a 3-0 lead? (Not to mention losing their best player, and for the record the Hawks scored a goal on the ensuing 5 minute major to said player) GO CAPS!!!!

  12. Noland - Mar 15, 2010 at 11:24 AM

    Milbury’s an idiot but Roenick is who you want? Wow.
    Ovechkin’s hit was stupid but not a game misconduct. Cooke didn’t get punished simply because he’s on Sid the Kid’s team, darlings of that idiot Bettman. You can seriously tell me that if that same hit was on Crosby they would take this long to “debate” anything? Of course, maybe then they’d bother to properly define shots to the head.
    And much as it pains me to say it Milbury’s right about the NHL softening up. Ever since Bettman came into power it’s been a downhill slide.

  13. Ovie is Dirty - Mar 15, 2010 at 11:41 AM

    The only reason I mentioned Roenick is because he did the commentary during the Olympics and I thought he did a better job than Milbury. Milbury thinks its ok to slam a players face through the glass and no penalty be assessed. I know there is far better talent they could plug in there maybe take Barnaby away from ESPN.

  14. Worchestershire - Mar 15, 2010 at 11:53 AM

    Watch a replay, Cookie definitely lifted an elbow on that play.

  15. Fecteau - Mar 15, 2010 at 12:54 PM

    Jimmy that’s hilarious! Maybe we should also put blame on Osama Bin Laden. He’s usually a solid scapegoat and we haven’t heard anything recently about him

  16. Colonel - Mar 15, 2010 at 1:01 PM

    Do you know what an elbow is? I just did watch the replay it was the shoulder that hit him. And no he did not raise an elbow.

  17. StakeX - Mar 15, 2010 at 1:42 PM

    Wow… Brandon let me take a guess: You played tennis in high school, were always picked last in gym, and get your nails done every week? At least thats my guess based on your writeing.
    Either way you really shouldn’t be writing about hockey with such a pannsified view of the sport, and a clear bias. Don’t want to hear about the Cooke hit? That was a dangerous play that was a direct attempt to deliver a headshot (Cooke’s MO)… who gives a **** if its legal or not. Ovechkins tiny push, was a play that happens 20 times a game (something someone who actually plays hockey would know). It also ended so bad only because Campbell caught an edge as he was going down, preventing him from protecting himself… if that didn’t happen we wouldn’t even be having a disscussion here. Hockey is a tough sport… this kind of stuff happens and the on-ice officials over reacted to what was at most a 2 minute call.
    It really is a shame Campbell was hurt on the play, and that shouldn’t matter one bit. If Matt Cooke can INTENTIONALLY knock a player out for the season and walk away…. there shouldn’t even be a debate about Ovechkins hit, which was not malitious and hardly illegal. Focus your energy on the fact that Matt Cooke should have been suspended for the year, and that the rules are so messed up in that area its sad… and not beating the war drum against one of the few NHL players who actually plays his ass off every game.

  18. Crosby sux - Mar 15, 2010 at 1:57 PM

    Of course Cooke should be suspended for the year, and Ovechkin should not even be penalized. They didn’t suspend him when he took out Gonchar’s knee in the playoffs requiring off season surgery. Now Colin Campbell is the enemy of the casual hockey fan because he didn’t suspend Cooke. Seems “the people” have 2 sets of rules; one for stars, another for common players. Everytime Ovechkin charges (illegal for most players) someone in open ice (example Jagr in olympics) folks say he’s such a great hitter, but when Cooke makes a similar play, they should lock him up.

  19. Stu - Mar 15, 2010 at 2:07 PM

    This hit is nothing like Lapierre’s. It’s very similar to one Craig Adams had earlier in the season that didn’t result in either a penalty on the play, or a suspension. Maybe on that one there should have been a suspension, but if you are comparing plays for consistency, that’s a far more similar hit. Possibly a little worse because the player was going directly towards the boards rather than turning like Campbell was. But both were in the same ballpark of dangerous plays.

  20. Johnworleyisadouchebag - Mar 15, 2010 at 2:15 PM

    You come across as a smug and arrogant homer. Unfortunately for you John, you appear to be obtuse as well. This makes for a really bad combination. There is no way OV should be suspended for multiple games. Do us all a favor and quit posting.

  21. brandonworleyisadbag - Mar 15, 2010 at 2:24 PM

    I meant Brandon Worley is a D bag. I feel much better now.

  22. Adam - Mar 15, 2010 at 2:26 PM

    You obviously have never played hockey. If you did, you would know what the result would be when you push someone from behind six feet off the boards. He didn’t finish his check, he’s too experienced to not have known what he was doing.

  23. gofukcyourself - Mar 15, 2010 at 2:28 PM

    Did your parents have any children that lived? People like you should not be allowed outside.

  24. gofcuckyouself - Mar 15, 2010 at 2:32 PM

    Your mother is dirty! Everyone…this guys mother is dirty! Spread the word all across the internet.

  25. Anonymous - Mar 15, 2010 at 3:33 PM

    Ovechkin hit Jagr face to face with no elbows up. Cooke came up from the hind quarter and threw an elbow right into the head. Not the same at all.

  26. Budweiser - Mar 15, 2010 at 4:13 PM

    Actually Ovechkin left his feet like he usually does in the NHL….that should be a charging penalty by rule

  27. Matt - Mar 15, 2010 at 6:04 PM

    There was no elbow on Cooke’s part. You obviously are guessing as to what happened. He clearly used his shoulder and that’s within the rules.
    Ovi on the other hand did a two handed push to a players back into the boards. That’s boarding… pretty clear cut. He’s a repeat offender and therefore he should get more than the 2 games he got. But he’s a superstar so they pussyfooted the suspension.
    And as for the automatic suspension. Since Ovi was not playing in all 42 of those games due to a two game suspension he has only played in 40 games since his last incident and therefore can be suspended for the mere fact of being involved but I’m sure the NHL will act as if that doesn’t exist….

  28. Jim Fenton - Mar 16, 2010 at 12:37 AM

    Mr. Worley, I don’t care what you “don’t want to hear” or “don’t want to listen to”, you clearly have a bias against Ovechkin. You know why you have this bias, I don’t, but is shows in your so-called writing.
    The first problem with 42.3 Major Penalty is the phrase, “The referee, at his discretion, may”. This shows there is no established criteria for this call. Discretion….. may…. Sounds like he can call it if he wants, doesn’t have to call if he doesn’t want to.
    The same problem exists with 42.4 Match Penalty. 42.5 is dependent on the “discretion” of 42.2 and 42.3, so it is just as “discretionary”.
    So, I guess there is some debate here, whether you like it or not, but hey, at least you spelled your name correctly, so you got one thing right.

  29. scott - Apr 5, 2010 at 10:04 AM

    Just googled up Scott Stevens best hits, guess what? about 8 of them were almost idenical to the Matt Cooke and Richards hits, maybe even a little more violent. Never heard Stevens called dirty, just the oppisite in fact. If the NHL wants to ban those type hits fine, but make it clear there was a reason no penalties were called on those plays, because they were legal hits and 10-15 years ago those hits would be shown over and over again as perfectly timed hits instead of dirty play.

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