In the first period of last night’s game, while Mason Raymond and Johnny Boychuk raced for a loose puck, Boychuk hooked Raymond, spun him into an awkward position — in which Raymond’s head was tucked between Boychuk’s legs — and drove him tailbone-first into the boards.
The impact of the hit broke Mason Raymond’s back. He has not yet been released from the hospital.
Now that’s just what happened. If I were to editorialize, I’d suggest that Boychuk did this on purpose, that the play was premeditated, or that he targeted Mason Raymond’s spine. Of course, there’s no way of actually determining this, and it would be pretty unreasonable, unprofessional, and irresponsible to make such a claim.
That in mind, I’m not going to suggest it.
Also, I don’t particularly believe it. From my vantage point, Boychuk is guilty of interference (Kerry Fraser agrees with me), and he’s guilty of hitting a player late and in a vulnerable position.
(That said, by the NHL rulebook, it’s not suspension-worthy, unless, say, you’re punishing to the injury, which Mike Murphy admitted to on the Horton hit, meaning that, by his most recent precedent-free and therefore precedent-setting punishment, it actually is suspension-worthy. This is why, for future reference, you don’t punish to the injury. That may also be why, for future reference, you don’t have an interim guy in charge of discipline in the Stanley Cup Final and why you don’t try to set precedents in the Stanley Cup Final. But these are separate issues, unfortunately.)
Late and dirty though Boychuk’s hit on Raymond might have been, my opinion is that he didn’t target Raymond’s spine; he just wasn’t really thinking. If Boychuk were smarter, he would have eased up once he realized Raymond was vulnerable, but he committed to the hit without considering that, and an unfortunate accident resulted.
What astounds me is that this is also the prevailing public opinion. Most people are willing to give Boychuk the benefit of the doubt. Most agree it was just an “awkward play”, as Mike Murphy said in the issued statement that announced no suspension.
I hate to return to the issue of unfair coverage, but I simply want to know: where was the benefit of the doubt when Aaron Rome hit Nathan Horton?
In that case, prevailing opinion seemed to be that it was intentional — intentional despite the fact that Rome had no history whatsoever as a headhunter, despite the fact that the game is faster than it’s ever been, despite the fact that the hit is late by less than a second, and despite the fact that Rome doesn’t leave his feet and he doesn’t raise his elbow. It’s entirely possible, perhaps even likely, that Horton’s injury (like most headshots) was an accident.
But, for Rome, premeditation was assumed. People scoffed at his apology as though they had uncovered a sketch of the hit in Rome’s locker the day before. Jason Botchford said today that one of the country’s national columnists looked him in the eye and stated that Rome had malicious intent to injure the head.
If it wasn’t Damien Cox, then there were two of them. After the hit, Cox wrote:
The Canucks go overboard on the dramatics to draw penalties and in these playoffs have also demonstrated a clear willingness to do just about anything to not only win, but eliminate key personnel from the opposing team.
The implication here is that Rome meant to take Horton out of the game. That’s editorializing bordering on slander. Unfortunately, many took it at face value, perhaps because it was sold as an objective take by trusted voices within the media.
It’s hard to do anything but shake our heads at these same voices when they give Boychuk a pass and decry the fans that jeered Raymond with chants of “flopper” as he lay on the ice with a broken back. Do you think the opinions of these fans were informed by the garbage they’ve been reading? I do. Truth is, shameful as it was to mock a player laying motionless on the ice, the crowd at the TD Garden were just following the example set by the people who report the news.
The moment we read and report intent in instances where it’s impossible to determine is the moment we’ve crossed the line into irresponsible reporting. Last night was evidence of what happens when that line is well behind us.Tags: Bruins, Canucks, featured, injury, journalists, Raymond, Stanley Cup Final, There are some stupid people in the media