Recently I've seen a lot of questionable calls by officials on some hard hits in the NHL and NCAA. Cal Clutterbuck, for example, was given a 5 minute major and a game misconduct for his hit against Vancouver's Alex Burrows. Watching the game on Fox Sports I cannot help but ask if the NHL is trying to send a message that it wants to be the "No Hit League."
Did Clutterbuck deserve a penalty? Yes. Clutterbuck definitely hit Burrows from behind and he definitely should've been given a penalty. But there was nothing vicious about the hit that meritted an early exit, or even a 5 minute major for that matter. I would've tolerated the double minor for hitting from behind (Burrows cut himself on the boards as he fell), but Burrows also saw the hit coming and turned his back to Clutterbuck to draw the penalty.
Recently Matt Cooke was suspended two games for a questionable hit. I didn't see the hit, and I only heard about it after he was suspended, so I can't comment on whether or not the league was justified in it's actions. What I can say is that this sends a message loud and clear to players that they must think twice before they hit someone.
They do not, however, have anything to fear from the league for punching someone in the head with gloves on. Prior to the All-Star break I was appalled to watch the Minnesota Wild games against Phoenix and Edmonton. It's not that they were awful games. It's the fact that two incidents stood out above all the great hockey that was played at "The X."
Against Phoenix, Wild forward Mikko Koivu cleared the puck from the zone while being hooked by Coyote Defenseman Derek Morris. Morris kept up his hook even after the puck was long gone and proceeded to take a few swings at the back of Koivu's head. Neither penalty was called.
Against Edmonton there were several tense moments after whistle with players taking a few shots at each other. The third period saw the most aggregious of it all. First Sheldon Souray got in a fight with Minnesota's Craig Weller and knocked him to the ice after two punches. Normally I would sit back and say Weller should've picked his fight better, but Souray was wearing a brace on his hand because of a recent wrist injury. This was what hit Weller's face and nearly knocked him unconcious.
Later in the third period there was some pushing and shoving after Dwayne Roloson had covered the puck. I didn't catch the player's number - and apparantly neither did the officials since there was no roughing call made - but one of the oilers took the liberty of throwing a few right hooks at one of the Wild forwards. The Minnesota player did not fight back in any way. Even with the officials in the middle trying to seperate them the Oiler's player still continued to throw punches.
I'm a die hard hockey fan. I love this sport and I want to see it grow and become one of the most popular sports in the world. But it is calls like this that make me hate the beauracracy that is Gary Bettman's NHL. To punish hits like Cooke and Clutterbuck's so severly, and then turn around and give a "stern warning" to Souray for his fight and nothing at all to players hitting each other in the head behind or after the play is just stupid to me.
The violence inherent to the game is not tolerated, but the violence that can be easily and unquestionably condemned is ignored. Does anyone else see something wrong here??