Body checking in hockey is one of the most controversial aspects of the sport. Hitting can be used as a tactic to overcome another team’s strengths. It can be used to slow a fast team down, it can be used to scare players and force them to give up the puck or it can also be used motivate your own team; the reasons are endless. However, when, what and how should hitting be controlled to prevent injuries and unnecessary intent to injure?
This past week October 12, 2013 Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Jack Johnson got hit “illegally” by Buffalo Sabres Patrick Kaleta. Kaleta is now appealing his 10-game suspension. Now, the issue with this situation is the fact that Kalata is a repeat offender, and most often times, players like him are out to injure other players. The idea behind giving a 10-game suspension is to implement the principle that he is a repeat offended, AND that if he continues to play the way he does, more game suspensions will come.
The hit on Johnson is controversial mainly because he passed the puck directly as he was getting checked, but it looked like Kaleta’s intent was to injure Johnson with a hit to the head. The hit went unpenalized, but after further review from the safety department, Kaleta was asked for in-person questioning/hearing. The initial camera angle didn’t catch the contact but on the replay you can see Johnsons head snapping back before he hit the ice. Rule 48, which the NHL had changed before deals with contact to the head. However, they did remove the word “targeting” out of the definition of head check to make the topic broader. One positive for Kaleta is that Johnson stayed in the game after the check. But because he is a repeat offender he can expect severe punishment.
Finishing your check is apart of the game and body contact is apart of the game. However I do believe that “headhunting” and unnecessary body contact to injure is not. In my opinion body contact can be used as one of many tactics or game plans to beat another opponent/team but I do not agree with players that are out to hurt other players. I also do not believe in fighting UNLESS it’s to protect a player or because a player got hit illegally. Otherwise, it’s unnecessary and doesn’t portray the sport in the right manner. Hockey to me has always been a game known for finesse, speed, and agility. What do you all think of hockey as? What do you all think about Kaleta’s hit on Johnson? What do you think about “finishing a check”?