Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Bourque To Sit

I'm going to be as transparent as I can be right now: hits from behind are dirty. I don't like them, and, as a defenceman, I'm always aware when a player is on my tail when I'm racing to pick up the puck. I won't shy away from telling you that I've allowed forwards to streak by me when I know they have a head of steam because I don't want to get plastered into the boards by some kid who is trying to earn a full-time beer league roster spot. Sure, it drives my teammates mad because they know I had a step on the kid, but it's the difference sometimes between winning the race safely and getting destroyed the next time.

The hard part for me, when I do get hit from behind as infrequently as I do, is whether I believe there was intention behind the hit. Did the jerk who hit me actually mean to hit me from behind? Did he stumble into me perhaps? Did I turn at the last second?

Normally, I can tell when a hit is meant to hurt - the lasting pain after the hit means that it was definitely intentional. Hits from behind, for the vast majority, don't have this same pain element as much as it is the element of surprise for the player being hit. Therefore, in the vast majority of the cases I've been involved in, the hit, in my view, was not intentional.

That brings us to the hit that Rene Bourque threw on Brent Seabrook. This hit looks bad, but I believe that Bourque's intention is to not line up Seabrook between the numbers. Check the video.

If you watch that video closely, it looks as though Seabrook turns ever so slightly, causing the hit to be from behind rather than partially from the side. While Bourque only had a split-second to react to the change that Seabrook made, I think the NHL, in particular Brendan Shanahan, will go a little easier on Bourque because I don't believe the intention was for Bourque to destroy Seabrook.

Regardless, players have to know that if you're going to attempt a hit and you can see the numbers on the back of the jersey, there's a chance that your hit could end badly. This is what I believe happened on this play involving Bourque and Seabrook, and, as a result, I believe that Bourque will sit for this hit.

The NHL needs to keep sending the message: players who don't respect the safety of their teammates and opposition will lose money through fines and/or suspensions. If that hasn't become apparent with the way that Shanahan has been fining and suspending people thus far, I'm not sure how much clearer it can be.

If you want to hit from behind, be prepared for a hit to your wallet. It's the only way some of these players will learn.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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