October 12, 2010
The hit from Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson(notes) that put Jason Pominville(notes) of the Buffalo Sabres on a stretcher with a concussion has been the source of some interesting debate in the last 24 hours.
Did Pominville spy Hjalmarsson coming at him and make no effort to avoid the hit? Was it a blind side hit? Was there intent to injure? Was it reckless? Was it something that didn't deserve supplemental discipline?
The NHL suspended Hjalmarsson two games, and got this one right. His shoulder check to the numbers was absent of malice but dangerously inconsiderate of the consequences. It's a borderline play, but one that a good young player like Hjalmarsson may reconsider making because of the suspension. If prevention is the point, then this suspension was on-point.
Coming up, the Buffalo Sabres goalie gives an epic take on the Pominville hit and the NHL's Wheel of Discipline.
Miller told the media on Tuesday that he flashed back to Richard Zednik's(notes) throat being slashed in Buffalo when he saw Pominville on the ice, primarily because Pominville and Miller watched that horrific scene unfold together.
Via WGR in Buffalo, here's Miller on the hit:
"No matter how badly Hjalmarsson feels, it's still an illegal hit. It still out our guy out and it's still suspendable in my mind. So absolutely needs to be punished. I don't care if it's unintentional. That's what we have to get away from hockey right now, is the culture of it; of I was trying to make a play, so therefore it's not my fault.'
"The hockey hit is to separate a man from the puck. Not anticipating the puck getting there and hitting him from behind and driving him into the boards. You have two things right there: The puck wasn't clearly there, there was anticipation of it, there's no separation, and he was hit from behind.
"I don't know if there was enough made of it, because Jason is walking out with just stitches. What if Jason had a fractured neck? We don't even know what kind of impact it's going to have with a concussion. So no matter how badly he feels, no matter if it's unintentional, we have to change the culture of it if we're ever going to change the situations we're seeing, which is guys on the ice bleeding and missing time with concussions. It's completely an unnecessary play. ... More people should be a little more outraged.
"God, when he left the ice, he was surprised he got kicked out. It's like, 'Are you serious?' I would have started skating towards the locker room if I were him. I'm glad he admitted to it, that he didn't mean to do it. But you have to change the culture sometime. I hope the league wakes up and sets a precedent for the year. "
Later, Miller was asked about the players and influencing rules changes, and he was candid about the NHL's "blindside hits ban" last season before the playoffs:
"The weirdest situation was last year was that we had a change right before the playoffs. Don't even get me started on that. It was all PR by the League. We were talking about that for two years and all of a sudden it's a good idea and ... so, whatever.
"My job's not to make rulings. It's the League, it's Colin Campbell. It's up to him to set a precedent right now. No matter if the guy's trying to make a smart hockey play, he made a dumb hockey play, and he should be suspended."
Miller was asked about if it had been a star player that was injured, what the reaction from the NHL would be.
"...It's up to you guys to kinda hold the League accountable by running interviews, running stuff. That's what puts the pressure back on the League. There has to be something at some point to set a precedent, and that was a bad hit."
Maybe there needs to be an example made of a player on a hit like this one. But not on this hit. It was borderline, to the point where there wouldn't have been any action taken were it not for the stretcher and the concussion; i.e., it was more about the aftermath than the play.
But Miller's eloquent point is taken: It's going to take a change to hockey culture to better protect the players, and the NHL has to be a catalyst for that.