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I just witnessed the hit by John Moore on Dale Weise in Game 5 - how was that different than the hit that Brandon Prust landed on Derek Stepan?
Stepan sustained a broken jaw ... Weise sustained a headache!
Should the same rule book call have been made on both hits?
The primary difference between these two illegal hits is that the head of Dale Weise was the "main point of contact" delivered from the shoulder of John Moore in Tuesday night's game and as such, fell under the parameters and language of rule 48 - illegal check to the head. Brandon Prust, on the other hand, initiated shoulder contact to the upper chest/shoulder of Derek Stepan and as the Habs player drove up and through the hit, "significant contact" resulted to the head of Stepan. No penalty was assessed to Prust on this play (missed by all four officials) but since this illegal check was very late, blindside in nature and excessive in the degree of violence asserted, a major and game misconduct should have resulted for interference (rule 56.4/.5). While it might sound like "wordsmithing" (main point of contact versus significant contact), these are important distinctions for the referee to judge when assessing the appropriate penalty. Regardless of the terminology or rule application, both Prust and Moore deserved to be expelled from the game pending any subsequent decision by the Player Safety Committee.
While both players were able to finish the game, it was learned the following day that Derek Stepan required surgery to repair a fractured jaw. Brandon Prust was suspended by the Player Safety Committee for a whapping two games! The full extent of head trauma symptoms is not always immediate so it might be premature to determine if Dale Weise is suffering anything beyond a headache. There is no provision for the referee(s) to assess a major and game misconduct penalty under rule 48 (minor or match only). Based on the degree of impact to the head of Weise, it was correctly determined by the referees that John Moore deserved a match penalty (deliberate attempt to injure) and was immediately suspended. Moore has been suspended two games following his hearing with the P.S.C. this afternoon.
To your point, Rick, there was an option, albeit ever so slight, for the referee(s) to impose a match penalty against Brandon Prust if first, they saw the play and second, deemed the illegal hit on Stepan was for no other purpose than to attempt to or deliberately injure the Ranger player. Given all the components of Prust's attack and delivery of the hit (excessively late, blindside and high) it would be reasonable to suspect it was not a normal "finish of a check" but instead designed to inflict punishment or even attempt to injure Stepan. Knowing the thinking habits of the referees, they would much prefer to impose the major and game misconduct option contained in the interference rule (or charging) and then let the P.S.C. rule under supplementary discipline if they deemed a suspension is warranted to the player as opposed to applying a match penalty that results in an immediate suspension and hearing. That option was not available to them last night when John Moore checked Dale Weise in the head beyond just two minutes worth!
Based on the seriousness and potential consequences of any illegal contact to the head, I offer the following recommendations, Rick:
- There should absolutely be no minor penalty option once the referee deems an illegal check to the head has been committed.
- Only a major and game misconduct or match penalty should be assessed for an illegal check to the head.
- Eliminate the fine line margin of tolerance and thinking that exists between "main point of contact" to the head for the referees to determine an illegal check to the head and for suspension purpose. If contact to the head of an opponent is "significant" through an elevated hit or otherwise, it should be judged as an illegal check to the head. Place the onus on the player making the hit to do so responsibly.
- Keep players' skates on the ice through a hit.
- Hold players accountable for their poor decisions that result in significant contact to an opponent's head with meaningful suspensions; beyond just two games.
- Rule on the violence of the act and not the result; namely the presence or extent of injury.