Friday, March 19, 2010

Ovechkin Suspension An Absolute Joke

By: Tim Brennan

Hockey is by far the most physical and fast paced sport on the face of the earth and there are times when a player comes under fire for a bodycheck or hit that is deemed "cheap" or "dirty". These terms have been placed upon the league's best player, Alexander Ovechkin, all season long after being disciplined twice and now the NHL decided they wanted to hold him back again.

Ovechkin was suspended for two games for a hit he put on Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Brian Campbell during a weekend game on NBC. Campbell picked up the puck in his own zone to get it away from a forechecking Ovechkin and Ovechkin threw his body into Campbell, which subsequently led to Campbell going full force into the boards. The result of the aforementioned hit was Campbell sustaining a broken clavicle and fractured ribs, which means that Campbell is more than likely out for the rest of the season. This is a huge blow because Campbell logs plenty of minutes on the Chicago blueline and is a valuable asset.

With all that in mind, I think the NHL was quick to jump the gun on the suspension. Ovechkin was given a 5 minute major for boarding and a game misconduct in the game itself, which was questionable. It wasn't even close to boarding to start with because Campbell was not five feet away from the boards, he was much further away. Another problem was that Campbell was off balance when he wrapped the puck up the boards and when Ovechkin hit him, he clearly loses his balance and falls into the boards.

The fact that Campbell was severely injured on the play probably led to the suspension and if Campbell never hit the boards, it wouldn't have even been an issue. But it's a big deal because according to league disciplinarian Colin Campbell, Ovechkin needs to stop playing so recklessly and has to understand that he can't hit someone when they are in a vulnerable position. This is the same Colin Campbell who stated in the same interview that if Campbell was never injured that he wouldn't have suspended Ovechkin. So what gives?

Ovechkin was suspended two games earlier this season for a knee to knee hit on Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Tim Gleason, which he rightfully deserved because he just wanted to get a piece of Gleason at any cost, leading to a dangerous play. But just because one time he did something dirty doesn't mean that he all of a sudden is a goon.

Ovechkin is a one of a kind superstar in the fact that he can go through a whole team, score goals, help his team to victory and isn't afraid to take the body. Several announcers and analysts around the league, including Canada's egomaniac Don Cherry, have stated that Ovechkin is completely reckless when he plays the game and has no respect for other players. On top of that, those same individuals have stated that he needs to stop being so aggressive and tone down his game. That in itself is utterly ridiculous. If you were the coach of a team and had a player who loved to take the body and had a similar situation like Ovechkin, would you tell that player to stop being a hockey player?

Hitting is an important part of the game and is an area that I personally love to see. Hockey players know coming into games that they have to be physical to make a difference and if they play in a standoffish manner, than opposing players will pick up on it and hit that player as many chances as they get. Ovechkin's hit was more or less a push, but because Campbell was off balance and went careening into the boards, it was deemed a dirty hit.

I'm not saying that this incident is Brian Campbell's fault, I'm not saying that at all. I am saying however that he was an important part of why Ovechkin was handed a two game ban on a hit that otherwise wouldn't have been an issue. And how come Ovechkin gets a major penalty, a game misconduct and a suspension on a questionable play when Pittsburgh Penguins pest Matt Cooke knocked out Boston Bruins center Marc Savard with a blind side elbow to the head and not get a penalty or suspension?

It goes to show that sometimes the NHL just likes to nit pick a certain aspect and then turn the cheek on another incident. The NHL handled this carelessly and this suspension is unacceptable.

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