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Ryan White of the Philadelphia Flyers escaped any supplementary discipline from the NHL Department of Player Safety for his hit to the head on Detroit Red Wing Tomas Jurco. White was issued a 5 minute match penalty for checking to the head at 2:20 of the first period.
There’s two things about the hit that don’t sit well with me. The first is it was late, and the second is there was a clear upward thrust on the finish.
While I don’t think Jurco should be staring after his shot like that, it was pretty obvious he was no longer a threat to score so the immediate danger was over. The need to hit that player and the eligibility of the player to be hit at that moment were both pretty low. That makes any hit more prone to scrutiny, so strike 1.
Strike 2 is that when a player isn’t expecting a hit or isn’t set to take it, really all you need to do is hold everything still and let that player sort of run into you. That will be enough to serve the purpose of a regular hockey play. Anything else, such as a lunge or push, is going out of your way to increase the ferocity of the hit. The hitter loses the ability to control the result of the impact. White does keep his elbow down and leans with the shoulder, but he clearly pushes upward, driving extra force into the head area of a vulnerable player. The part where I differ from most people is they’ll look very closely to see if there was in fact head contact or not. I don’t necessarily care whether head contact actually takes place in most cases. What I look for more is whether or not the person throwing the hit took as much care as is reasonably possible to reduce the chances of the head being the principle point of contact. White did not take the necessary care here, and instead his actions actually increased the possibility of head contact. Adding to the equation is that White is a repeat offender after being suspended 5 games for elbowing back in 2013 as a Montreal Canadien. With all the factors I would have expected 5-7 games, and instead there was nothing.
As I seem to conclude most of my head shot articles, based on their decisions I have no idea what the Department of Player Safety wants to eliminated from the game, but this has to be one of them.