Monday, during game two, at the 15:03 mark of the first period, Ottawa Senators defenseman Dion Phaneuf laid out Pittsburgh Penguins forward Bryan Rust with a thundering, legal hit. Rust would leave the game and not return. There was no call on the play, nor should there have been. Per NHL rules, it was a clean hit.
According to Rotoworld, Rust is listed as day-to-day with an upper-body injury and won’t play in Game 3 against Ottawa on Wednesday night.
Of course, Penguins beat writer Rob Rossi from Pittsburg Tribune Live didn’t like the hit. This is the same guy that thought Alex Ovechkin intentionally tried to hurt Sidney Crosby during the second round series between the Penguins and the Capitals.
Sadly, a hockey play is also what Dion Phaneuf’s open-ice walloping of Bryan Rust must be considered. It was “clean” in that it was within the rules that are drawn up by league general managers.
The NHL will be better — or, at the very least, closer in resemblance to hockey as it should be played — when its rulebook is drafted by a group of former skilled players, a group to which GMs rarely have belonged. Also, the NHL will be better — or, at the very least, not laughable — when its on- and off-ice officials begin taking seriously the issue of head safety.
The NHL does not.
Instead, at all levels associated with the NHL, there continues to be disgusting victim shaming (“Rust was skating with his head down” was a common comment during Game 2) along with shameful attempts to brainwash the general public into believing that all is well.
Players’ heads may no longer be hunted, but they’re certainly not protected. So, nope, all is not well. (Rob Rossi, Trib Live)
Take a look for yourself, the hit in question is a hard, legal check. Hockey is a physical sport and people get hurt. That’s part of the game. Players know when they step on the ice it could be their last shift of their hockey career. Just because a hit causes an injury doesn’t make it illegal.
Taking a closer look. This hit doesn’t appear to violate NHL Rule 48.1: Illegal Check to the Head – A lateral or blind side hit to an opponent where the head is targeted and/or the principle point of contact is not permitted.
Does Rossi have a point? Do we want the NHL’s rulebook to be drafted by a group of former skilled players? I don’t. This suggestion sounds self-serving. Rossi is probably tired of watching his Penguins getting out muscled.
Looking at this a bit closer. Are there some magic tweaks the regulars on the NHL rules committee are missing? Second, opposing players are going to take runs at the other team’s players. Most players do it within the confines of the rule book. A few players will step over the line. Hockey happens at a very fast pace and freak accidents and plays are going to happen. The players in the NHL are getting bigger, stronger and faster. In essence, you’re having thousands of high impact crashes every season. Something is bound to happen.
I keep hearing that the league has to protect its star players. What next, do we put a no-hit jersey on star players? But as long as there’s checking in hockey, there’s going to be injuries. If players have the puck and are skating with their heads down, they’re still going to get hit.
In my opinion, for the most part, the current rule book is working quite well. If there is a problem, it lies with the NHL’s Department of Players Safety, that’s another discussion that I will address later.
Heck, let’s take it further, for argument sake. Why not a set of rules for skilled players and a set of rules for goons and fourth line players. Wait, the NHL already does. Under the current NHL landscape, star players are rarely if ever suspended. It takes an act of God for one of them to sit unless their name is Brad Marchand. Star players are given way more leeway than goons or bottom-six players.
Let’s take a look at the NHL’s poster boy. Back in March, Sidney Crosby slashed Marc Methot causing severe damage to one of his fingers. During the same month, Crosby speared the Sabres forward Ryan O’Reilly in the gonads. In my humble opinion, this sounds more like fanboy hyperbole.