Radko Gudas has made his weekly quota here on Tough Call with this brutal hit on Boston forward Austin Czarnik. He somehow avoided suspension a few days ago and the league has yet again paid the price for its leniency (Gudas And Vesey Both To Blame).
At first glance this hit may seem like a clean shoulder check, and everyone is so focused on the simple debate of whether or not this is a head shot that they don’t recognize the main issue. The term hockey play never gets discussed by “the experts”,who are only concerned about head contact and whether or not the player has been injured. They repeatedly punish based on result instead of action and players and the very game itself are being ruined because of it.
Clean hit. Bad hit. Shoulder to chest. Shoulder to head. In this case, who cares? The only two words that matter here are “unnecessary hit”. We HAVE to start teaching these guys, and better yet our young kids who look up to these guys, why we hit in the first place. As Radko Gudas, why would I skate 5 extra feet out to the hashmarks to hit a guy when he’s put the puck cleanly back to the point and my winger is already trapped beside him? Czarnik wasn’t even turned around yet after his pass when Gudas eyed the hit opportunity like a lion stalking a gazelle. Again, he wasn’t interested in the puck, and he obviously wasn’t interested in recovering back to his defensive position at the front of the net. He left 20 feet of unprotected ice right in front of his goalie to commit to a hit from a guy who had already played the puck, was standing still, facing the wrong way, and already engaged by his teammate. He did this knowing there was a 50/50 chance Czarnik wouldn’t even turn around into a position to legally be hit at all, which makes me wonder whether he would have hit him anyway. After all, just days before this the League all but confirmed to him he could do just that by ignoring what he needlessly did to Ranger Jimmy Vesey.
This hit on Czarnik was late, and I expect the only other thing the league may mention is that it was high. Until they start recognizing pattern predatory players and holding them accountable for their decision making rather than the outcome of those decisions; until they start promoting puck focus and hockey plays rather than allowing people to think only about hitting; and at the very least until teams like the Flyers don’t punish poor defencemen for going so far out of position all the time, the constant injury and suspension cycle will never change.