What did we think of Los Angeles Kings defenseman Rob Scuderi's(notes) hip check on Jason Chimera(notes) of the Columbus Blue Jackets, which sent the winger face-first onto the ice and cut him open during the first period of Sunday night's game?
First off, it was less a hip check than a chop block, to make a football comparison. Scott Stevens on Tie Domi ... now that's a hip check, and in the middle of the rink no less.
But Scuderi submarined Chimera, if not at the knees then near them; compare that with the very comparable (and controversial) Keith Ballard(notes) tilt-a-whirl check on Evgeni Malkin last season (video), and you'll see that Scuderi looks like Jorge Posada blocking an errant curveball by comparison.
Chimera stayed on the ice for a couple minutes, and sustained a cut to his head. No penalty was called on Scuderi, but the Blue Jackets took offense, as Derek Dorsett(notes) went after Scuderi near the bench and drew a game-misconduct penalty. Chimera also attempted to go after Scuderi and got a 10-minute misconduct penalty.
The hit in question (if a higher quality video emerges, we'll update):
Was it illegal?
"A player or goalkeeper shall not place the stick, knee, foot, arm, hand or elbow in such a manner that causes his opponent to trip or fall."
Ah, no mention of the back or tailbone. So there you go.
Again, Scuderi comes in so low you almost have to believe it wasn't his intention; that he misjudged Chimera's approach or lost an edge or something of that ilk. But the claims by the announcers that Scuderi doesn't dabble in the dark arts of vicious hip checks near the boards? Ask Dainius Zubrus about that.
There will be outcry from the usual "protect the head!" punditry; it will get a look from Toronto; but it would surprise us to see any supplemental discipline for Scuderi, despite the gruesome Chimera contortionism chronicled by Erin Nicks on The Universal Cynic. It would be penalizing the acrobatics of the hit rather than the play itself.
UPDATE: Rich Hammond gets quotes from Scuderi ("I don’t have a reputation as a dirty player"), Kings Coach Terry Murray ("The hit is just a hockey hit"), and Chimera, who isn't exactly a happy camper:
"It was low. It was a dirty hit. I don't care what you call it. I've been hip-checked before, but it's a dirty hit. There's no room in the game for that kind of (stuff). When the guy takes your knees out, what are you supposed to do? It wasn't a hip check at all. It was a direct hit on the knees. They had no explanation, so I don't know what they (the referees) were thinking. I mean, I landed on my face on the ice and my neck was squished against the ice. I'm lucky I didn't come out with a concussion or something. It's a dirty play. There's no room in the game for that. There are too many guys that are carried out on stretchers because of dirty stuff. There's no room in the game for it. There's got to be a level of respect out there."
OK, but did you think it was a dirty hit, Jason?
UPDATE 2: Puck Buddy Chris D. corrects us that the call should have been "clipping" rather than tripping, according to NHL Rule 45:
Clipping is the act of throwing the body, from any direction, across or below the knees of an opponent.
A player or goalkeeper may not deliver a check in a "clipping" manner, nor lower his own body position to deliver a check on or below an opponent’s knees.
An illegal "low hit" is a check that is delivered by a player or goalkeeper who may or may not have both skates on the ice, with his sole intent to check the opponent in the area of his knees. A player or goalkeeper may not lower his body position to deliver a check to an opponent’s knees.
By the letter of the law, Scuderi could have been given a major for cutting Chimera. But intent to injure in this situation is a tougher call.