I’d love to be a fly on the wall near Johnny Boychuk today. Less than a week after the New York Islanders defenceman tried to save his pride by accusing the league of letting Sidney Crosby get away with a hit to his head, Isles teammate Calvin De Haan ended up possibly sitting on the hot seat for an extremely similar play.
De Haan made himself the latest on a list of players who’ve caught young Tampa Bay Lightning forward Jonathan Drouin with a devastating body check. The NHL’s Department Of Player Safety did look at it and deemed the hit unavoidable. But was that the right call?
I say absolutely. De Haan and Drouin were both racing for the puck and it was a race De Haan was clearly going to win. They were coming from opposite directions so Drouin should have known contact was imminent if he kept going. Yet he was intent on playing the puck so instead of getting in a good posture for defending himself he ended up actually bending down and extending forward, reaching out with his stick. This caused his head to lower and become the first and potentially only thing De Haan would hit. He may as well have strapped a bullseye on his helmet, given De Haan an oversized anvil with “ACME” written on it and started yelling “meep meep”.
The Islanders player here did nothing to make this hit dangerous. He had every right to step into the space, and he had every right to protect it with his body. There’s no excessive force here. The fact that he had to partake in a forced fight immediately afterward really bothers me because of this. My thoughts on forced fighting are scattered all over this blog, and in this case it’s doubly frustrating because not only did De Haan do nothing to make this hit dangerous; he should be credited for going out of his way to make the hit LESS dangerous than it could have been. Here’s why:
The final seconds of the video above show De Haan starting with his elbow up, and within the final two strides for whatever reason he lowers his elbow as far as possible and puts his whole arm down by his side at impact. Here’s a picture sequence of the hit:
This one shows Drouin tall and upright, eyes on the puck at the blueline.
A couple strides later, head still up above the line of the boards, still focused on the puck.
Drouin approaches imminent contact.His head is now even with the line of the boards and he’s started his stick extension, bending and placing his head forward. Also notice the orange stripe on the right arm of De Haan’s jersey. His elbow is leading because he is also half heartedly reaching for the puck.
The moment of impact. Drouin is still leaned forward, stick still fully extended. He never stopped playing the puck. Notice the orange stripe on De Haan’s jersey. His arm is safely pinned to his body now, and the stripe is down beside his hip. His elbow is below that stripe, which means at the last second he made the adjustment to pull his stick in (now behind him) and brace for safe impact. If Drouin had taken the same protective action, no one would be talking about this hit. There wouldn’t have been a fight.De Haan wouldn’t have been penalized. Hockey would be great again.
Instead, he does the exact opposite, choosing not only to NOT protect himself, but to expose himself even further right up to the bitter end.
This is all on Drouin.