J.T. Brown became an instant hero to me last week during a game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Nashville Predators and he has my vote so for hit of the year.
Preds D man Roman Josi was taking the puck around his own net and Brown met him on the other side, delivering an extremely painful looking thunderclap check that sent him crumbling to the ice.
The technique is textbook tidy. Brown glides into the contact in a nice low hockey stance, arm tucked in, two hands on the stick, stick low and away, leading with the shoulder, and never lunging. It was punishing, and only because of the timing. The perfect hit.
Obviously there’s contact to the head, and I’m not clear whether it comes immediately before or after the shoulder is impacted. But it’s clear to me by Brown’s posture the head wasn’t targeted, and the technique ensured that any head contact damage would be as minimal as is possible when delivering this type of high velocity check. No suspension should have even been talked about.
That, however, was not the consensus on the Nashville bench. Just minutes later and very near the end of the game, another Predators defenceman made himself front and centre. Ryan Ellis took what can only be assumed was a retaliatory run at Brown and clearly targeted his head. Ellis later denied in interviews this hit had anything to do with earlier events, but even so.
Brown doesn’t have the puck and isn’t close to getting possession in the near future. He’s not eligible to be hit. Yet Ellis doesn’t just hit him. He takes a good 5 quick hard strides to purposefully charge the Lightning forward from the blindside. In what I think is the only hit this year against a Tampa player not to involve Jonathan Drouin, Ellis gets his man with a high, illegal, intentional attack.
The joke was on him however as in an unfortunate twist of fate (from the Hockey Gods?) Ellis ends up on his back and Brown is right on top of him. He lands 5 good quick hard right handers, one for each stride Ellis took committing the crime.
After this one got nothing from Player Safety I don’t see how there can justifiably be another suspension this season.