On Saturday night Don Cherry accused Philadelphia Flyers players Brandon Manning and Michael Del Zotto of intentionally injuring Edmonton Oilers rookie sensation Connor McDavid. As both a lifetime Edmonton Oilers fan and Philadelphia Flyers “disliker” I have every reason to get behind this. Don Cherry chose to cite his status as a “hockey guy” to add credibility to his statement so leaving allegiances out, as a hockey guy, I think I have to disagree.
I’ve never been in a hockey fight (at least the guy who was punching me never knew I was in the fight) but I would dare say I’ve been in a position where I was driving wide to the net a fair number of times more in a game than Mr. Cherry. Looking at the play as a hockey guy, the only real problem I have is with the initial corkscrew action by Manning with his hand as McDavid has him beaten with speed. That is a common but dangerous last ditch effort to knock a guy with speed off balance before he can shoot. It impedes a player and should be called a hold, but it’s nothing more than a hockey play and any player going to the net should expect it. The only reason this particular incident became more dangerous than the next is the incredible speed McDavid can generate. Anyone able to go that fast is automatically more vulnerable than anyone else in the same position.
As for the final evidence Don Cherry references about Del Zotto following through and giving an extra lean to drive McDavid harder into the boards, I think his motion is evidence of the exact opposite. As he recognizes McDavid is alone on the rush and he also sees his partner has been beaten, he cuts across toward the two players to prevent McDavid from getting a clean angle to the net and leans forward to brace himself for contact. At the same time, Manning sends McDavid off balance with his hold and McDavid falls down. Recognizing McDavid has lost control and is going to hit the boards there is really nothing Del Zotto can do here except try to stop his momentum. His extra lean or push as McDavid crashes is actually evidence of this attempt to pull back. Because McDavid is now on the ground, Del Zotto pulls his lower body out of the way and when you do that, especially when you’re moving at speed, your upper body naturally moves forward and downward. Stand up and try it. If he had been attempting to hit McDavid even more he would have driven his whole body forward and his legs also would have made contact.
Verdict: Two minutes for holding