Hear me out. Defenceman Adam McQuaid of the Boston Bruins was recently injured on a hit delivered by Washington Capitals forward Zach Sill. While there was no penalty called on the play, the NHL Department of Player Safety took another look and tagged Sill with a two game suspension for boarding. (read my hit analysis here) Regardless of how you feel about the suspension to Sill, what about the part played by McQuaid in creating the situation?
Adam McQuaid took several strides toward the puck and was completely aware of Sill’s presence and intent. Whether Sill was in the wrong or not, McQuaid turns his body at the last second and puts himself directly in the line of fire, hands down, just a foot from the boards. Because of this, the only possible outcome was for his head to hit the boards.
The purpose of the NHL Department of Player Safety shouldn’t be just to hand out punishments and lay down the law. Through all these hearings they should be educating players about how to make decisions to keep each other safe, and also how to protect themselves from being vulnerable in the first place.
The Department has suspended Sill for his role in the hit saying that regardless of McQuaid’s actions the hit was still illegal. But if McQuaid had done something different to protect himself he would have prevented an imminent head injury, so doesn’t that have just as much to do with player safety?
It’s like if someone gets a penalty for hooking but then the other player dives. That doesn’t excuse the hook on the victim, but he still gets penalized for his behaviour.
Maybe Sill gets two games for throwing the hit, but McQuaid could get something like $2,500 for adding preventable and unnecessary seriousness to the injury.
Even if you think Sill shouldn’t have finished the check from behind, it’s pretty clear that McQuaid shouldn’t have made that last second adjustment and put himself in a place to be finished.