Hockey has finally been getting some mainstream media coverage after the triumph of the Winter Olympics — but none of it has been good. A rash of cheap hits that led to injuries have been the first hockey highlight shown nationally seemingly for a couple weeks now.
The Ducks James Wisniewski was just the latest, but the league has had enough. It handed down an eight-game suspension to Wisniewski for a hit on Chicago’s Brent Seabrook that knocked the Blackhawk out on his feet.
Ducks fans may not like it, but the league had to come down. Wisniewski’s hit was illegal — Seabrook had never even played the puck — and the league has to come down if it wants to keep its image with mainstream fans.
You can see what happened for yourself. First Seabrook came down and laid a hard — but legal — hit on the Ducks Corey Perry. Wisniewski then does what any good hockey player does and looks to stand up for his teammate. That’s what the Ducks were selling after the game.
"I think the result wasn't because of a shot to the head. I'm 5-11. He's 6-3. I really think what happened was my face hit his face. That's why I got a slit right here because of the visor came down and hit me right in the face too after we collided heads."
"There'll be lots of banter back and forth on whether the hit was this or the hit was that," the (Ducks coach Randy Carlyle) said. "Bottom line is that he hit the hockey player. He used his body, his arms were down and he made a hard hit on a player. We'll let other people make those decisions."
The video shows something different. Wisniewski started his run at Seabrook from 15 feet away (in the face off circle) and he didn’t let up when Seabrook didn’t play the puck. Wisniewski’s hands were up and he shoved Seabrook back into the boards. It was a dangerous hit.
As dangerous as what Alexander Ovechkin did the other day? And got a much lesser penalty? Maybe, maybe not. But Ovechkin is a league star, so he does get kid gloves treatment. That’s the way it is in every sport — people pay to see Ovechkin, he gets cut slack. Wisniewski isn’t that level of star, and his came after a series of hits when the league needed to put its foot down.
This is not taking the toughness out of the game — but the NHL has to clean up the cheap retaliatory hits that leave guys injured. The “code” in the NHL is to retaliate when your stars take a big check, as it should be. But you do that within the rules, not take cheap shot hits away from the play that leave a man injured and can end a career. Seabrook worked as hard as Wisniewski to make the league and live the dream, and Wisniewski made a move that could have taken it away from him. That is not the code, that is a lack of respect for you opponent.
And that’s not what hockey is about.