Ryan Reaves of the St. Louis Blues has escaped any supplementary discipline for his hit on Chicago’s Erhoff.
There sure are a lot of people claiming it’s Erhoff’s fault for getting scared and backing out of the hit at the last second. They say it’s not even fair to give Reaves an interference penalty on the grounds that if Erhoff had manned up, he would have had possession of the puck at the time of the hit. He just got cold feet when he saw Reaves coming and backed out.
If I was skating behind the net in a race for the puck, I wouldn’t be expecting a hit either. I wouldn’t consider myself eligible to be hit and would only be focused on gaining possession of the puck. I understand Erhoff’s lack of preparedness. Reaves should have been focused on that as well. He had his stick going for the puck and gave every indication that was his clear target, not Erhoff.
At the very last second, Reaves saw that Erhoff had exposed himself. He made a drastic and dramatic change in direction and body posture and exploded unexpectedly towards Erhoff.
Contact at this point should only be for gaining body position in the 50/50 battle. You have to beat someone to a space and establish position there. Any legal contact for the purpose of maintaining that pre-established position is fine.
In this case, Reaves leaves his own established space and lunges into Erhoff’s space. Erhoff was already on a clear and predictable line, with his head safely behind the position of Reaves, who’s course was also predictable. When Reaves made the sudden change in line, Erhoff didn’t bail out of a clean hit. He was saving himself from being attacked. Again, I would have done the same thing.
For those that do argue “that’s just hockey. Interference at the most”, I’d love to hear your comments and explanations on how this hit relates to a hockey play.