Hitting from behind. Catching the numbers. Seeing the numbers all the way. Automatic penalty obviously. Isn’t it obvious? Shouldn’t it be obvious? Is there any better example of a defenceless player than someone who’s standing six inches away from the boards facing the complete opposite direction?
Hits from behind happen. All. The. Time. We see them but we don’t really notice them. We don’t care about them. We’re not upset by them or affected in any way; unless someone gets hurt.
Just this past New Year’s weekend there were at least two very noticeable hits from behind. One was followed by a fight, and the other had a player leaving the ice on a stretcher.
On Sunday in the New Year’s Day Heritage Classic between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Detroit Red Wings, Drew Miller was lined up by Nikita Soshnikov.
Somehow that evolved into a fight between tough guys Steve Ott and Matt Martin. You could pretend a melee ensued because of the hit, but you can already see Ott tied up with someone along the boards at the time. He and Martin had come together a couple of times previously during the same shift and they were already looking for a reason. The only person who really cared about the hit was Drew Miller.
I can’t find a video of it anywhere(I made my own GIF). No one is talking about it on social media. A search for “Soshnikov hits Miller” or “Miller hit from behind” turns up nothing. No one is waving a flag for Drew Miller even though this outdoor game is a special spectacle that most people notice.
Now for hit number two. On New Year’s Eve when many people are doing anything other than watching a not so important regular season game between the Capitals and the lowly Devils, outrage was sparked.
New Jersey defenceman John Moore had his face imprinted into the glass by notorious line crosser Tom Wilson.
He went down in obvious severe distress and ended up being wheeled off on a stretcher, hardly moving.
A simple search for “Wilson hit” yields hours of relevant reading. Articles and photos are everywhere.
When you look at both these hits, is there any real difference? Both guys are always showing numbers. Both players have played the puck already. Both players have their heads hit the glass.
There’s only one difference: one player was hospitalized, and one wasn’t.
The NHL Department of Player Safety should treat both these hits with the same scrutiny. So should we.