Nazem Kadri. I don’t like him. I don’t respect him. But I can’t falsely accuse him. His hit on Alexander Ovechkin in Game 5 of the first round series between Washington and Toronto raised some eyebows and, in some cases, some pitchforks, as a hostile social media weighed in on the legality of the play.
It also sparked a debate on low bridge hits in general and whether they should be eliminated completely. Nick Kypreos of Sportsnet was one high profile figure calling for a complete ban. It’s true, the days of the good old fashioned hip check seem to be gone.
I think this specific hit by Kadri was as clean as the NHL could ask for. He gets low, but he doesn’t get too low at all. Everyone points to where contact was made on the body of Ovechkin, above or below the knee. While this was clearly above the knee, it’s not fair to judge the hit fully based on this fact. Ovechkin actually pulled up and straightened his leg in reaction to the oncoming hit. That’s pretty much what caused the “injury” (there’s another article for another day) and made the hit seem bad in the first place.
No, we have to base it mostly on Kadri’s position. I’m actually proud of him here because it’s the first time in his entire career throwing a hit where he hasn’t lunged upward and outward at someone’s head. I can understand the tripping call. I don’t agree with it because Kadri didn’t stick his leg out, so contact with Ovechkin’s foot was an incidental part of the hit. But I can understand it.
What I can’t agree with is the outrage on low hits. In general, if you have any kind of opinion on the Kadri hit, you fall into one of three categories: 1) you think the hit was fine and all hits like that are fine; 2) you think the hit was legal but should be banned; or 3) you think it was illegal already because it was low.
If you fall into category 1, I salute you.
If you fall into category 3, you already have a rule to fall back on. There’s already a penalty for clipping or low bridging. Low hits are already banned. Any hit where a player throwing the hit is in a posture that puts them lower than an opponent’s knee is illegal. This is a moot point.
Finally, if you’re a category 2, you essentially think this was legal by today’s standards but want the rule to be changed to include this type of hit as a penalty. So what you’re unwittingly asking for is for checking to be taken out of the game.
I don’t mean this the same way a mindless internet troll means this. What I’m saying is there’s already a war against head shots. I think that’s great. They’ve tightened up the rules to eliminate most hits that are even close to high. They’ve even eliminated some hits that are thrown cleanly but happen to make contact with a player’s head, even when that player’s head is waist level. For several years now they’ve been encouraging players to stay low, hit low.
Now remember, there’s already a rule where you can’t hit below the knee, so all that’s left right now as legal fair game is the area from the shoulder to the knee. If you now want to take away the area from the top of the knee to the waist, you’re asking players at high speed to hit other players at high speed in all postures in a window the size of someone’s stomach with absolutely no margin for error. Literally every hit would be under review.
Even if you want to argue that he must have done something wrong becaue he got a penalty, consider that what he got was a minor penalty for tripping. That’s standard issue stuff. It wasn’t clipping or kneeing or low bridging. The rules already cover the major problems associated with the kind of hit Kadri threw, and he didn’t break any of them this time.