Jannik Hansen has already avoided discipline on one hit from behind this season, when he cross-checked a referee off the opening draw in San Jose. “I don’t think I even realized what I had done or who I had done it to at the time,” Hansen said after the game. His eyes fixed on Ryane Clowe, Hansen shoved the first body in between him and his target. It was referee Dave Jackson.
But somehow, Hansen escaped that incident without so much as a talking-to from anyone on the on-ice crew.
Will he be second time lucky? That’s the question the hockey world is asking after Hansen perpetrated another hit from behind Tuesday night in Chicago, when he and Blackhawks’ star Marian Hossa came together at centre ice, the puck overhead like hockey mistletoe, only have to have their contact end not with a kiss, but with a nasty forearm shiver that forced Hossa from the game with a suspected concussion.
Here’s the play, from the perspective of the Chicago broadcast team, for whom there’s no question that Hansen is a goblin damned, in the words of Hamlet:
According to these guys, this hit was all malice. He wasn’t going for the puck at all! His real target was Hossa’s juicy, juicy brain stem.
You can see how Blackhawks fans like the ones calling this game might get this idea. First of all, Hossa is a superstar playing incredible hockey — he had two goals before leaving Tuesday’s contest. We learned from the Matt Cooke hit on Erik Karlsson that fans of injured superstars are often so desperate to ascribe blame that they’ll put aside all reason in order to do so.
Plus, Hossa only just recently returned from a serious injury via neutral zone headshot, courtesy Raffi Torres, so there’s a special sensitivity to his plight. It’s tough to see this incident as completely different from that one, too, since they both left Hossa disconcertingly prone on the ice. On the left is Hossa after the Raffi Torres hit. On the right: Hossa, post-Hansen.
“How eerie is it that where Hossa got hit last night is probably within a foot and a half of where he got hit last year in the playoffs?” Ed Olczyk said on the radio Wednesday morning. They’re completely different plays, but the similarities will be hard for some to ignore.
Furthermore, Duncan Keith’s injurious elbow to Daniel Sedin, which also came with the puck overhead, is still fresh in everyone’s mind, and the Canucks never really got revenge for it. It’s easy to make that simple connection and claim that’s what we’re witnessing here.
Finally, this is a Canuck we’re talking about. If there’s anybody who isn’t going to get the benefit of the doubt in the United Center, it’s a Vancouver Canuck. If you’re a Blackhawks’ fan, Jannik Hansen and his ilk are simply bad people prone to ill deeds. They live without morals. They’re basically godless marauders. Ottawa’s Matt Cooke theory applies: this was no accident, because an objectively bad person was present.
Of course, it’s not that cut and dry. Hansen has a hearing with the Department of Player Safety Wednesday afternoon at 12:30, at which time he’ll be able to mount his defence. He has a very good one.
First of all, this really was a play for the puck. Hansen had no intent to injure, let alone intent to make contact. He’s simply trying to make an interception.
Jonathan Toews isn’t just clearing the zone here. He’s making a pass, and operating on the Randy Moss theory: in a one-for-one, Hossa’s going to come down with it. Hossa is bigger than Hansen, and he has body position. He’s going to catch this puck.
But because Hossa’s a very smart player, one of hockey’s smartest, he doesn’t just wait for the puck to come to him where he is. Hansen might still have an outside chance at it there. Instead, Hossa drifts backwards into Hansen’s space as the puck approaches in order to shield Hansen from a play. Plus, by putting Hansen on his back, Hossa has made a lane for himself if he can catch this puck and turn with it up the boards.
But Hansen doesn’t realize Hossa is backing into him. Much like the Dave Jackson crosscheck, Hansen is fixed on his target: the mid-air puck. If he can reach over or past Hossa and make the grab, he might be able to re-enter Chicago’s zone on an odd-man rush with the Sedins. That’s a good scene.
Unfortunately, the resulting collision is a bad scene. Hansen never even comes close to the puck, as either his elbow or forearm connects with the back of Hossa’s head. The red jersey hits the ice immediately. Hossa is helped to the dressing room, and now Hansen has a hearing.
I’m confident this is what happened, and former referee Kerry Fraser appears to have reached the same conclusion:
I do not believe that there was any deliberate or malicious intent on the part of Jannik Hansen to hit Marian Hossa in the head as both players went up for an airborne puck that had been flipped out of the Hawks zone byJonathan Toews. The resulting contact to the back of Hossa’s head was not worthy of anything beyond the minor penalty for roughing that was eventually assessed by the referees; albeit well after play was whistled dead for the Hossa injury.
Both Hansen and Hossa reacted to the approaching puck similar to a jump ball on the Bulls’ homecourt in the United Center. Both players went up for the puck and in doing so, Hossa slid his body position to the right while Hansen moved to the left. Their focus and intent was gaining puck possession.
The movement of both players put them on a collision course as Hossa had the lead lane and the advantage to contact the puck first. From the back side position, Hansen would have to extend his reach over and past Hossa if he were to be successful in playing the puck. In real time and from a deficient position, Hansen’s follow-through contacted the back of Hossa’s head as both players moved toward one another and reached for the puck.
Fraser goes on to say that Hansen’s subsequent penalty for roughing, which was assessed shortly after the officials realized Hossa didn’t immediately bounce right back up, was the result of “residual sensitivity” to Hossa’s recent situation. I’m inclined agree, but I’d add that the Vancouver-Chicago rivalry played a part.
I think the Department of Player Safety will have similar findings regarding the hit. But they still might dole out some supplemental discipline.
I said last night on Twitter that I think Hansen should be suspended, and while my view of the hit has changed a little upon closer inspection, I still think he will be. Even though this play was a simple accident, I can see how the DOPS might come to the decision to give him either a stiff fine or a game at most.
Hansen’s play was reckless. Hossa backed into his way, but Hansen needs to be more mindful of his surroundings, and in this case, his blindness to everything but his target may have left a guy concussed. You need to have more control than that, especially around your opponent’s head. Those things hold a pretty valuable organ.
And that possible concussion will be a factor. A few people on Twitter asked if we’d even be debating supplemental discipline for Hansen if it wasn’t Hossa, or someone else with a recent concussion history. Probably not. But the “residual sensitivity” could be a factor. Moreover, like it or not, the DOPS considers what they know about the injury sustained on the play when assessing incidents like this, and Hossa could have a serious one. That might be enough to see Hansen miss Thursday’s game in Dallas.Tags: Jannik Hansen, Marian Hossa