Rule 48: Legal Hits Are Now Illegal

If you happened to catch the Canucks game (and why the heck would you have missed it), you saw Alex Edler demolish Kyle Clifford in the neutral zone. You also saw that Edler got himself a minor penalty for the hit and further to this, you got to see yours truly defend the call on Twitter. Now before you call for me to be drawn and quartered, take a look at the hit again (although you can disregard the Kings commentary).

When it first happens, the hit looks nice and clean regardless of Rule 48. Clifford has his head down and Edler simply skates through him. But when you look at the replay, you can see that Edler braced himself for the contact by raising his arm and leans into Clifford’s skating path prior to making contact. Old skool rules would classify this as a hit and I don’t argue, but new skool rules don’t and this is why:

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. – source

Although you can argue that there was no intent by Edler to make contact with Clifford’s head, it’s that fancy and/or that states it’s still a foul if the opponents head is the principle point of contact. Based on what I saw, that seems to be the case.

It gets even more interesting when you read the following:

48.2 Minor Penalty – There is no provision for a minor penalty for this rule.

48.3 Major Penalty – For a violation of this rule, a major penalty shall be assessed (see 48.4).

48.4 Game Misconduct – An automatic game misconduct penalty shall be assessed whenever a major penalty is assessed under this rule.

48.5 Match Penalty – The Referee, at his discretion, may assess a match penalty if, in his judgment, the player attempted to or deliberately injured his opponent with an illegal check to the head. – source

Based on the letter of the law, had Edler been penalized for a hit to the head, he would have received a five minute major and early shower – yet in what I believe was an effective use of game management, the referees instead gave him the minor for elbowing (where a provision for 2 minutes exists). This ensured that what could be seen as a “ticky tack” call wasn’t something that contributed to the outcome of the game. Clifford was fine, Edler served his time, and the game was resolved in the shootout.

All things being equal, I don’t believe this is the last we’ll see of this debate and in fact, I could see this rule work it’s way up to “skate in the blue paint” infamy. Players have always been told to skate with their heads up, to protect themselves, and in old time hockey to expect a hit like this to occur if you didn’t. I’m all for rules that protect a players health and hope I don’t see another hit like Matt Cooke’s for as long as I watch hockey. However, with the onus being shifted from the player laying out the hit to assume responsibility, I think we’re that much closer to seeing good solid contact being taken out of the sport.

And that’s just a bloomin’ shame.

Chris Golden

Chris is the Head, Social & Community Relations here at CHB, hosts the C4 podcast and is the guy who goes streaking when Chris Tanev scores goals. He's also still looking for 1.21 gigawatts of power.

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8 Responses

  1. I guess Edler should have slammed on the breaks and let the king skate by with the puck….sheesh…

  2. Chris says:

    That’s the problem, I don’t agree that Edler should have to yet the rule doesn’t have any leeway. It doesn’t matter if the opposing player is placing their head in a dangerous position, as all that matters is whether or not it’s the principle point of contact.

  3. As far as I can tell, the hit on the head was a result of Clifford skating stupidly – reaching for the puck with his head down – into Edler’s shoulder than Edler throwing a hit.

    I understand the rule and its intent, but I think the referee misinterpreted it. I don’t think it was a blindside hit nor a lateral hit – Edler was skating up ice was he not? – and I don’t think rule 48 should have been applied.

  4. David says:

    This was an insightful post, thanks. It’s disturbing that there is no option for a minor penalty, as what Edler did shouldn’t have been a game misconduct, even though it clearly violated 48.1. To call it elbowing is a little far-fetched because Edler didn’t use his elbow. It’s nice of the refs to have let Edler get off with an elbowing call, but very scary that according to the rules, they should have tossed him from the game.

    That rule should be reformed to allow for a two-minute minor penalty where there “the head is the principle point of contact” even though there is no intent by the guilty player to make contact with the head.

  5. Chris says:

    That’s the thing JJ, Rule 48 was NOT applied. Had it been, Edler’s night would have been over as soon as the penalty was called as there is no provision for a 2 minute minor under the rule. I completely agree with you that what Edler did was what we understand to be “part of the game,” but it’s also a good example of how Rule 48 can become an albatross should something like this happen again in the future. There isn’t anything in the rule that even says “in the opinion of the referee” to give it some grey – it’s good ol’ black and white cause and effect.

  6. Chris says:

    That’s exactly my point – I had never read the rule until after the Edler hit and was shocked once I did. I’m all for the intent of the rule in an effort to protect the players, but I think it may have been rushed out in a effort to have something over nothing.

  7. Sternip says:

    I think what made it look bad was that Edler leaned right into the hit, which made it seem more aggressive than it really was – at the freeze frame of impact his body and trailing leg make an almost 45 degree angle to the ground. I’d say it was just off being a good clean hit, had Edler held body position into the hit a bit differently he probably would not have been penalised. It also did appear to me on first look that he made contact with his elbow, even if the commentator said the opposite – I think that had a lot to do with his body positioning and lean.

    For me, it was his lack of thought in making sure he wouldn’t give the refs a reason to give him a penalty.

  1. May 24, 2011

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