Oct 112013
 

If you’ve been off social media for the past couple of hours, you’ve likely missed the news that Alex Edler has been handed a 3 game suspension for the “illegal check to the head” of Tomas Hertl in last night’s game. And I’m likely about to say something that will upset a fair number of you.

I think three games for Edler is reasonable.

Alex Edler hits Mike Smith

Courtesy of AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin


While there is considerable debate to the legality of Edler’s hit itself – of note there was no call on the ice at the time – it’s hard to argue with Brendan “Banahammer” Shanahan’s assertion in his discipline video that the main point of impact is Hertl’s head (as you can see from the video below):

So why the suspension on what most are saying was a “legal” hockey hit (man am I overusing quotation marks)? It has everything to do with the first sentence of Rule 48 – Illegal Check to the Head

A hit resulting in contact with an opponent’s head where the head is targeted and the principal point of contact is not permitted.

While there are those who say Hertl hit Edler, I think we all agree a collision took place between and Edler’s arm/shoulder/body caught Hertl’s noggin square. Based on that fact alone, Edler violated Rule 48 and probably got off unfairly unscathed during the game.

For those of you who are about to castigate me in a public fashion, you’re not wrong in thinking there was no malice, intent, or recklessness involved – I don’t believe there was. But the language in the rule itself goes on further to accommodate that line of thought:

However, in determining whether such a hit should have been permitted, the circumstances of the hit, including whether the opponent put himself in a vulnerable position immediately prior to or simultaneously with the hit or the head contact on an otherwise legal body check was avoidable, can be considered.

As Shanahan explains in his video, these factors were taken into consideration when doling out supplementary discipline. And I would go as far as to say this whole issue would be moot had Edler made contact with anything other than Hertl’s head.

And lastly, this incident seems far too similar to Edler’s knee-on-knee hit on Eric Staal in last year’s World Cup – another incident where Edler appears slide down the train tracks before contact. With this one, I’ll let you be the judge:

  • jandt

    The hit is suspendable. By today’s standards, there’s no doubt about that. Edler hits Hertl in the head, while Hertl was in a vulnerable position.

    Two points:

    1) Hertl put himself in a vulnerable position, much like Eberle did against Raffi Torres a few years back. What’s Edler supposed to do when Hertl pretty much lowers his head into Edler? Whatever happened to “Keep your head up”?

    2) I think most Canucks fans wouldn’t have an issue with the suspension if supplemental discipline was handled consistently. Rick Nash elbowed a Florida Panther behind the head a few days ago, and got off scot-free. Frans Neilsen swung his stick at someone and got off with nothing. Phil Kessel got a vacation for swinging his stick FOUR times at John Scott. The whole DPS is a fucking joke.

  • Puck Watch

    Nice article. His hits can be so awkward…. Just like you point out with Staal’s hit… gets stuck in the train tracks. The way he bounced into the bench/boards shows he was expecting more contact than he got, I think.
    I’m expected a few games, but the lack of consistency is frustrating. Hits like this happen all the times. Quite similar to Moore/Naslund IMO, which didn’t get a suspension obvioulsy, but I think should have.

  • http://www.thebassman.ca thebassman

    I think the suspension is reasonable – he’s a repeat offender, and hit Teenage Mutant Ninja Hurtl in the head. 3 games sounds about right to me.

    That being said, more and more players are leaving themselves in vulnerable positions because they KNOW if they get hit, they’ll draw a penalty. There has to be some onus on the player that’s being “hit” to not put themselves in vulnerable positions, or players will start (or rather, continue) to use this to their advantage…

  • http://www.canuckshockeyblog.com/ Chris (@lyteforce)

    I agree completely with your second point! In fact, Victoria penned a post today that states as much. I’m all for the line being drawn in the sand wherever it needs to be, so long as the line doesn’t get rubbed out when circumstances (or a wind storm out of an owner’s office) allows.

    As to your first point, while I agree that Hertl’s head was lower than normal, I believe that had more to do with his desire to race to the puck. The replay shows that he wasn’t looking down as much as he was looking forward.

  • http://www.canuckshockeyblog.com/ Chris (@lyteforce)

    While I also feel Moore got off lightly when he took out Naslund, we have to remember the NHL rules had not yet focused on getting the headshots out of the game (though you could argue they still haven’t been focused).

  • http://www.canuckshockeyblog.com/ Chris (@lyteforce)

    Any thoughts to what can be done to keep players out of a vulnerable position? I’m not sure you can suspend.

    As a soccer referee, the Laws of the Game provided me an opportunity to award an indirect free kick when a player plays in a dangerous manner, yet has not committed a penal foul. I would often utilize this law when a player put themselves in harms way as a means to protect them.

    While the soccer solution of an indirect free kick is moot in hockey, maybe the referees could whistle the play dead and restart with a faceoff? In fact, we do see circumstances of this in international play (i.e. Goaltender losing their mask, or other players losing equipment).

  • http://www.thebassman.ca thebassman

    Maybe have it treated like the diving rule? Get “caught” putting yourself in a vulnerable position to draw penalties, and after a couple of offences, a 1-game suspension. I don’t think a penalty could be called for it in game, as it’s so subjective… but they’re not hard to spot, especially after-the-fact.

    It’s the guys that turn towards the boards with the puck on the boards… they know they can’t (legally) be hit, so they can protect the puck, but if they are hit, they’re on the PP. The young kids in Edmonton do this ALL THE TIME (Taylor Hall, I’m looking at you, kid!).

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