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The Copper & Blue takes a detailed look at the three most common reasons for spinal cord injuries in Canadian amateur hockey and the implications on the hits that have become so controversial in the NHL today. Amateur leagues have done their best to get rid of these types of plays and have significantly reduced spinal injuries because of it. Now it's the NHL's turn.
The debate has raged on all season long: is Alex Ovechkin a dirty player?
Ignited again by his most recent hit on Brian Campbell, SB Nation writers have provided the arguments for both sides of the story. Before voting in the poll below, read Derek Zona's case for classifying Ovechkin as a dirty player. Then, read Travis Hughes' case for Ovechkin as a reckless, but not necessarily dirty, player.
When you're done, scroll down, view his questionable hits and decide for yourself by voting in the poll.
On Sergei Gonchar:
On Tim Gleason:
On Dennis Wideman (use this link to jump straight to the hit):
On Daniel Briere:
On Jamie Heward:
On Patrick Kaleta:
A slewfoot on Peverly:
A blindside interference hit on Dustin Brown:
A headshot on Valentin Wirz:
An "Alfredsson" on Scuderi:
There you have it. Is Alex Ovechkin a dirty player? Before voting in the poll below, read Derek Zona's case for classifying Ovechkin as a dirty player. Then, read Travis Hughes' case for Ovechkin as a reckless, but not necessarily dirty, player. Vote below (and sorry about the third party poll service!).
There are a lot of people out there who think Alex Ovechkin is a dirty player, but there's one thing to note about players who are considered 'dirty.' It implies that there's malicious intent. What Steve Downie did to Sidney Crosby over the weekend was a dirty play. The questionable hits Ovechkin has laid down over the course of his career are reckless, but not dirty.
Reckless play is not dirty play. Reckless play happens when players who play on the edge tip toe across that edge. Ovechkin is a high-flying, dynamic, entertaining, gifted hockey player. That's what makes him such an appeal to everybody from the average sports fan to the diehard hockey fan. He plays on the edge, and sometimes, he goes over that edge, creating situations that can be dangerous for opposing players or even himself.
For this reason, Ovechkin may have a shorter career than he would otherwise have. Many have suggested that he needs to rein in his play a little bit in an attempt to simply save himself from inflicting serious injury upon himself. Others have suggested that he rein in his play because it's impossible for a hockey player who will inevitably, you know, get older, to keep up the style of play he employs.
These are all valid points, but to what extent do we want Ovechkin to step back from the way he plays? His reckless style is what makes him so exciting to watch, and it's safe to say that if more players played like he does, hockey might be a more popular sport among the average sports fan. Toning down his game would, simply put, take out half the things people love about Alex Ovechkin.
It's a bit of a quandry, then. We don't want Alex to necessarily change his ways because it will detract from his overall game. At the same time, the way he crosses the line puts other players on the sidelines so often with these questionable hits make a change rather necessary.
Whatever he decides to do, though, it's obvious that Ovechkin doesn't intend to hit the ice and injure other players. Most people seem to think that knee-on-knee hits are the most dirty of the questionable offenses in Ovechkin's closet, but the fact of the matter is that they're plays that happen out of instinct.
A player will stick out his knee to stop another player as a last resort, and while the hit can be extremely dangerous and could even end the career of either player in extreme situations, it's not a situation that one would put themselves in simply with the intent of hurting another player. There has to be another reason, and while it's an instinctual reason without much thought process applied in the heat of a game, it's not a dirty play.
In fact, Tim Gleason, the victim of Ovechkin's most recent knee-on-knee hit, didn't really have a problem with it.
"I've got nothing wrong with the way he plays. Actually, he's the number one player for a reason, and that's why the fans come to watch him: he puts the puck in the net and he's gonna hit you when he can. You know, he's one of those players that you just have to have your head up, but I'm sure everybody in this dressing room or any other dressing room would like him on their team. So I think it's just an aggressive style, and more power to him."
The league's best player may need to adjust his game slightly to prevent dangerous injury in the future, but too much change will take away his impact on the ice. It's a fine line that Ovechkin needs to walk. Let's hope he does it right.
NHL fans and the hockey media need to accept that one of the biggest superstars in the game is a dirty player. Yes, he's gregarious and yes, he plays hard, and yes, he might just be "reckless" as many have suggested, but in the end, Alex Ovechkin is a dirty player. His history of knee-on-knee hits alone is Bryan Marchment-like and his collection of boarding penalties are something out of Matt Cooke's book.
That he's a dirty player does not mean he's not a superstar, and it shouldn't preclude the typical media and fan worship that comes with superstar status. After all, the NHL has a history of dirty superstars from Gordie Howe to Mark Messier and many in between - and the league has had the ugly face of hockey front-and-center for years as the game's luminaries have been involved in ugly incidents for as long as the NHL has existed.
The great Rocket Richard is always associated with the Richard Riot, but well before that he was a violent player prone to fits of rage that usually ended in an injury to his opponents. He was a supremely talented player that was chased, shadowed, harassed, hit, held and slashed, but that didn't excuse the fact that he had no quarter for the opponent and often showed it by using his stick to carve their face like a sunday roast. He drew blood nearly as often as he tickled the twine.
Although he wasn't the original dirty hockey player, at the time Gordie Howe was the most talented dirty hockey player even to lace up the skates. To Red Wing fans and the NHL, he was "Mr. Hockey", but to the rest of the league he was "Mr. Elbows". The running joke at the time was that "while the equipment man sharpened his skates, Gordie sharpened his elbows." Even the Red Wings team page lauds Gordie Howe's "razor sharp elbows" as if it was somehow a good thing. Howe sent many players to the locker room with high, dirty elbows to the head and beyond that he was well-known for his hits from behind.
Prior to Ovechkin, the most recent example of a dirty superstar was Edmonton's Mark Messier. Messier was known for more than just his leadership and his Stanley Cups -- throughout his career he took cheap shots at people with his stick, his skates, his elbows and his fists and sent many men to the injured reserve. Like Richard, he had a penchant for stickwork, and like Howe, he wasn't afraid to attempt to injure someone with an elbow.
So, in reality, Ovechkin keeps very good company with these all-time greats - he's a generational talent with an intent to injure. Judging by the past, the NHL, the media and fans will sweep it all under the rug and continue to praise Ovechkin as one of the best in the game, so let's just get on with it. He's dirty, but it doesn't matter because he's good.
Monday’s report has been confirmed: Chicago’s Brian Campbell has a broken collar bone and rib as a result of the hit from behind he received from Alexander Ovechkin on Sunday. Ovechkin was suspended two games for the illegal hit, which drove Campbell into the boards.
Campbell’s regular season is over, but he could be back sometime in mid-May to join the Blackhawks in the playoffs, assuming they’re still in contention.
A statement was released by the Washington Capitals on Tuesday with an apology from Alexander Ovechkin for Sunday's check on Brian Campbell, which resulted in a two-game suspension. Capitals head coach Bruce Boudreau and a number of NHL players also shared their opinions on the hit and suspension.
Ovechkin's apology can be seen below:
I am very sorry that Brian was injured and I hope he is able to return to his team soon. NHL hockey is a physical game. We all play hard every time we are on the ice and have battles each shift in every game we play so we can do our jobs and win. As players we must accept responsibility for our actions and I am no different but I did not intend to injure Brian and that is why I was disappointed with the NHL's decision yesterday. Every time I have the honor to play for my team, I will continue to do what I have done since I was taught to play. I will play hard, play with passion and play with respect for my teammates, opponents and fans. I look forward to returning to my team and doing everything I can to be the best player I can be.
Everyone has their own opinion about the incident, but I think we can all agree that Ovechkin did the right thing by expressing his sympathy and apologizing for his actions.
The National Hockey League, namely disciplinarian Colin Campbell, has suspended Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin two games for his hit on Brian Campbell (no relation), according to Tarik El-Bashir of the Washington Post. Ovechkin will miss a game against Florida on on Tuesday evening and one against Carolina on Thursday evening.
He'll lose $234,645.60 of salary. Yikes.
As Yahoo! Sports' Sean Leahy pointed out on Sunday, the suspension was not an automatic one due to the circumstances. League rules call for a player to be automatically suspended two games when they've been given two game misconducts for boarding in one season. Ovechkin's game misconduct for the Campbell hit was his second of the year, the other coming in November for a hit placed on Buffalo's Patrick Kaleta.
Due to a loophole, however, those two suspensions have to be no more than 41 games apart from each other. The game on Sunday was the 42nd game since the Kaleta hit. How timely.
The Campbell hit is at least the third example of reckless play by Ovechkin this year, though, following the Kaleta incident and a knee-on-knee hit on Tim Gleason that also got him suspended. Apparently, the league now believes Ovechkin is a repeat offender, and under Rule 42 for Boarding or Rule 44 for Checking From Behind, they are allowed to suspend a player using their judgment. That's exactly what happened today.
According to Hendricks Hockey, an NHL league sources is reporting that Blackhawks defenseman Brian Campbell has broken a collarbone and broken rib that could cause him to miss the rest of the season and playoffs. The hit came from Alexander Ovechkin in the Blackhawk’s 4-3 loss to the Capitals on Sunday.
That source claims that Campbell has a broken rib, broken collarbone and a 2nd degree concussion suffered when Washington’s Alexander Ovechkin hit him from behind in Sunday’s first period.
Watch Chicago blog Second City Hockey for updates and confirmations.
After the Capitals/Blackhawks game, Alex Ovechkin and Capitals head coach Bruce Boudreau shared their comments on the hit.
“I didn’t hit him hard,” Ovechkin said of Campbell, who did not return to the game. “He fell bad. But you can see, every shift this happens — little pushes, little battles.”
“I didn’t think it was a bad, bad check worth a five and a game [misconduct],” he said. “A two at the most, but I don’t make the calls.”
These comments aren’t shocking given the circumstances but given the players involved, the league has an interesting problem for themselves.
After getting hit by Alex Ovechkin in the first period of Sunday's game, Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Brian Campbell will miss at least three games, coach Joel Quenneville told ESPNChicago.com.
The Hawks are off until Wednesday, where they will head to Anaheim to kick off a three game road trip. Campbell will not travel with the team. Long term, it's unsure how long he'll be out of the lineup.
It's not really shocking news that fans of the Chicago Blackhawks and fans of the Washington Capitals have differing opinions about Alex Ovechkin's hit on Brian Campbell.
Let's get this out of the way up top: everyone is going to see what they want to in Alex Ovechkin's hit on Brian Campbell. Me? I saw a two-minute boarding minor that the on-ice officials were too scared to call when Campbell stayed down. There's no automatic suspension coming, and I wouldn't be surprised to see the game misconduct rescinded. But, like I said, people are going to see what they want to see in controversial hits like this.
Go figure, right? Needless to say, it's a different opinion in Chicago.
Today's game, started much to early, got off to a slightly interesting start when the man we all came to see got ejected. Did he deserve it? Most certainly. Do I think Ovechkin is a dirty player? No, I do not. Over exuberant for sure, and that occasionally lands him on the wrong side of the edge.
Kudos to Sam for not calling for Ovechkin's head, but it's safe to say that other Hawks fans aren't as even-keeled. All it takes is a trip into the comments at Second City to dig up those emotions. We can't quote most of the comments from their game thread here, but you can certainly go view them on your own.
For more on this game and the aftermath of Ovechkin's hit on Campbell, visit our Capitals blog, Japers' Rink, or our Hawks blog, Second City Hockey.
Chicago, IL (Sports Network) - Nicklas Backstrom scored twice, including the winning goal at 3:10 of overtime, as the Washington Capitals rallied to beat the Chicago Blackhawks, 4-3, at United Center.
Backstrom, Brooks Laich and Eric Fehr scored 2:16 apart in the third period to erase a 3-0 deficit. Jose Theodore made 20 saves for the Capitals, who have already secured their third consecutive Southeast Division title and lead the NHL with 101 points.
Washington mustered the comeback without captain Alex Ovechkin. He missed the majority of the contest after receiving a major and a game misconduct for shoving Chicago defenseman Brian Campbell, who crashed violently into the end boards from behind at the 12:16 mark of the first period. Campbell's right shoulder appeared to aborsb most of the collision. He did not return to the game.
Jonathan Toews had a pair of goals for Chicago, which was coming off a tough 3-2 loss in Philadelphia on Saturday. The Blackhawks surrendered two goals in the final 2:04 against the Flyers, including Chris Pronger's game-winner with 2.1 seconds left.
Antti Niemi stopped 26 shots to take the loss.
From James O'Brien of ProHockeyTalk, we have this visual evidence that proves Alex Ovechkin's hit on Brian Campbell came from behind.
Rule 44 in the NHL Rulebook addresses hitting from behind. Ovechkin was given a major penalty and a game misconduct for the hit, which seems to be perfectly in line with what the rules call for.
44.1 Checking from Behind – A check from behind is a check delivered on a player who is not aware of the impending hit, therefore unable to protect or defend himself, and contact is made on the back part of the body. When a player intentionally turns his body to create contact with his back, no penalty shall be assessed.
44.2 Minor Penalty - There is no provision for a minor penalty for checking from behind.
44.3 Major Penalty – Any player or goalkeeper who cross-checks, pushes or charges from behind an opponent who is unable to protect or defend himself, shall be assessed a major penalty. This penalty applies anywhere on the playing surface (see 44.5).
44.4 Match Penalty - The Referee, at his discretion, may assess a match penalty if, in his judgment, the player or goalkeeper attempted to or deliberately injured his opponent by checking from behind.
44.5 Game Misconduct – A game misconduct penalty must be assessed anytime a major penalty is applied for checking from behind.
44.6 Fines and Suspensions - Any player or goalkeeper who incurs a total of two (2) game misconducts under Rule 42 and/or Rule 44, in either the Regular season or Play-offs, shall be suspended automatically for the next game of his team. For each subsequent game misconduct penalty the automatic suspension shall be increased by one game.
If deemed appropriate, supplementary discipline can be applied by the Commissioner at his discretion (refer to Rule 29).
The next logical question is, of course, will Ovechkin be suspended?
For all his talents, Capitals super star Alex Ovechkin certainly has a reckless side. He showed it earlier this season with a knee-on-knee hit on Carolina's Tim Gleason, for which he was suspended two games.
On Sunday in Chicago, Ovechkin showed a bit of that reckless side again, delivering a two-handed push to the back and side of Blackhawks defenseman Brian Campbell. Campbell went flying into the end boards, awkwardly colliding with his shoulder before crumpling on the ice.
Ovechkin went immediately to the penalty box without even a signal from the referee, but he would eventually be handed a five minute major for boarding and a game misconduct.
Here's video of the incident:
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