FanDuel - WFBC

October 20, 2010

Why Can't Stars Be Hit in the NHL?: A story on hockey concussions in Tuesday's New York Times describes this February TSN commentary by Bob McKenzie as a "landmark column." McKenzie challenged the unofficial rule that tough hits against a star player must be avenged, no matter how clean. "I must be getting old. I've never fully embraced or understood the concept of not being able to hit a star player on the other team," he writes. "I am not sure when the game fully changed on this. It was probably in the 1980s when Wayne Gretzky earned special status with the Edmonton Oilers."

posted by rcade to hockey at 08:09 AM - 6 comments

Whether consciously or not, perhaps the hockey players are taking an economic look at the situation. If star players are hit more, they are injured more, they play less, viewership declines, and everyone loses money. Clean hits can cause injuries too, so all hits on star players must be deterred by this logic. Isn't this a similar dynamic to why NBA stars get whistled for fewer fouls?

posted by sbacharach at 11:12 AM on October 20

It was probably in the 1980s when Wayne Gretzky earned special status with the Edmonton Oilers.

It isn't like Gretzky never got hit.

posted by grum@work at 12:44 PM on October 20

It isn't like Gretzky never got hit.

Interestingly though, that was Bill McCreary Jr's last game in the N.H.L.

posted by tommytrump at 01:18 PM on October 20

If the so-called "untouchables" are that good, they should have learned in pee-wee hockey to keep their head up. I have to agree with McKenzie that the designated wing man to fight for a star is a dumb idea (he didn't say it in those words, but that seems to be the gist). It's dumb because it is a) predictable and b) ties up a roster spot that might be more gainfully occupied by a decent checking line forward.

I watched Boston vs Washington last night, and there were 2 fights in the game. Both were to settle old scores. Campbell vs Hendricks was a continuation of their pre-season go after Campbell cleanly laid out Ovechkin. It's a clear example of what McKenzie was talking about. If Ovechkin wants credibility as anything but a sniper, let him do his own retaliation. The second was between Lucic and Erskine (part of a Gordy Howe hat trick for Lucic), and this too goes back a couple of years. In this case it was a legitimate "I really don't like you" sort of fight, not an attempt to get even for something. The latter has a legitimate place in the game, but the former does not.

posted by Howard_T at 02:37 PM on October 20

The latter has a legitimate place in the game, but the former does not.

I believe in the exact opposite of that sentiment. Fights in hockey are not about "I don't like you so I want to hurt you." They are about, "I'm going to intimidate you into respecting the more highly skilled, highly-paid player on my team." To advocate fighting on the ice rink as a way to settle personal scores and grudges is to advocate anarchy on the ice. The enforcer is hockey's way of policing itself; it has worked (to varying degrees) for well over 100 years.

It's dumb because it ... b) ties up a roster spot that might be more gainfully occupied by a decent checking line forward.

Well, that's part of the strategy involved in managing the game, isn't it? Some teams have the luxury of a high-scoring player who had the body mass to defend himself, as in Jarome Iginla or less recently Cam Neely. Some have a smaller all-star, such as a Gretzky or Kovalev. They need to make sure that he isn't manhandled by some overzealous lummox, so they put a McSorley-type on the ice to ensure respect. And some truly lucky teams get a thug who actually develops into a player, a la Al Secord at the end of his career.

I'm just not sure about how common the scenario McKenzie presented is. Normally, a good clean hit isn't visited with retribution in the form of an enforcer challenging the hitter to a fight; normally there needs to be some indication of a cheap shot. I think he's taking an anomaly and treating it as an epidemic.

posted by tahoemoj at 07:52 PM on October 20

You protect the guys that give you the best shot at winning, simple as that. Doesn't matter if the hit is clean or dirty, its common sense that you would rather not subject your star player to any hits. I don't know what McKenzie is saying when he disagrees with the "rule." He disagrees giving your team an advantage? Sorry, I'll take whatever I can get. Would you rather play against a team that doesn't hit back in those situations or one that does?

posted by Andy1087 at 08:24 PM on October 20

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