Hockey playoffs are all about momentum. Teams with momentum can barrel through series with little effort, while teams needing momentum usually face an uphill battle in trying to get it. Momentum can be gained through several means: a big goal, a fight, or a timely, monsterous hit. Last night, Niklas Kronwall of the Detroit Red Wings threw a huge hit on Chicago's Martin Havlat that left Havlat dazed and confused (to say the least). Hvalat had to be helped off the ice on what appeared to be a good, clean hockey hit. That is, however, until Dan O'Halloran apparently dismissed Kronwall from the game with a game misconduct.
First, let's take a look at the hit.
Wow. Solid check with the shoulder. Havlat's out cold.
Now, there has been some debate as to why this hit was given a five-minute major and a game misconduct. Clearly, Kronwall did not do anything malicious in terms of intent to injure even though Havlat's night was over. It is, in my opinion, a good hockey hit.
The problem, though, was explained in detail by retired NHL linesman Ray Scapinello on The Score television network last night. During the show Hardcore Hockey Talk with Steve Kouleas, Scapinello was asked about the hit. Here's the explanation on how that hit warranted a game misconduct.
According to Scapinello and proved by the video, Martin Havlat never touches the puck. By every letter of the rulebook, this is interference. While Scapinello doesn't deny that protecting the puck with a player's body could be considered puck possession, Havlat never touched the puck so the call of interference can be made on that play.
Where the five-minute major comes in is through Rule 56.4, which reads:
"The Referee, at his discretion, may assess a major penalty, based on the degree of violence, to a player or goalkeeper guilty of interfering with an opponent (see 56.5)."As Scapinello said last night on television, linesmen can call major penalties if they see one without raising their hands or arm into the air. Because O'Halloran was behind the net during the hit, he is simply responsible for announcing the penalty, and that's how the NHL came to state that O'Halloran "made the call" when, in fact, one of the linesmen had to have made that call.
Where the game misconduct comes into play is through Rule 56.5, which reads:
"When a major penalty is imposed under this rule (Rule 56.4) for a foul resulting in an injury of an opponent, a game misconduct shall be imposed."Because Kronwall was already assessed the five-minute major for interference, the rulebook states that he must also receive a game misconduct for that play. While he could have simply been given a two-minute minor penalty, someone on the ice in stripes had to have felt that this hit was more violent than just a two-minute trip to the sin bin.
Now, Scapinello felt it was a good hockey hit as well, but, as he stated time and again, the rulebook's wording made it impossible for Kronwall to remain in the game unless his penalty was downgraded from a five-minute major penalty to a two-minute minor penalty. The only way to change this from happening again, according to Scapinello, would be to change the rulebook.
Personally, I truly believe that Scapinello's explanation will help Red Wings fans and hockey fans understand this a little more. Is it right? Probably not. I thought it was a clean hit, and one that Havlat should have known was coming. But at least with Scapinello's explanation, Kronwall's dismissal makes some sense.
Beauty hit. Strange rules.
Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!