Breaking news: hitting is still allowed in the NHL.
As expected, Alex Burrows will not receive a suspension for his hit on Ryan McDonagh late in the game against the New York Rangers, because the people employed by the NHL’s Department of Player Safety have eyes.
This, of course, means that the curse that has stricken Burrows all season has finally been broken. A cursed Burrows would have been flown to New York for an in-person hearing and suspended for 15 games. Now, the last remnants of his curse could only tag him with a 5-minute elbowing major and a game misconduct. His nightmare is over.
NHL Dep’t of Player Safety has reviewed Burrows’ hit on McDonagh and does not believe it is worthy of suspension, Post has learned.
— Larry Brooks (@NYP_Brooksie) April 2, 2014
My opinion on this will likely be dismissed as biased, but to me it looked like a clean hit with an awkward and unfortunate result. Burrows went in hard on the forecheck, but didn’t take strides into the hit, so it’s not charging. He hit him square in the chest, so it’s not a hit from behind. McDonagh was against the boards at the time rather than in the danger area a few feet out, so it’s not boarding.
It was called elbowing on the ice, but that doesn’t seem to be right either. The ref who called the penalty was behind McDonagh at the time, so his view was obscured, likely calling the penalty because of how McDonagh went down in pain, thinking Burrows made contact with the head. If Burrows did make contact with the head, it was minor contact simultaneous with the hit to the body or on the follow-through.
That won’t satisfy Rangers fans, who are upset to see their best player aside from Henrik Lundqvist injured right as they’re making their playoff push. That’s perfectly understandable, but their complaints about the hit just don’t hold any water.
If McDonagh had suffered a head injury, analyzing video of the hit and making freeze frames to try to show that the hit was to the head would make sense. Instead, he suffered a shoulder injury because of how he got awkwardly jammed into the boards. Trying to find head contact where there was none is nonsensical when McDonagh’s injury had nothing to do with his head.
Calling it a cheap hit because of the time left in the game also doesn’t make much sense. The Canucks were down by two with less than a minute left but had their goalie pulled and were trying desperately to tie the game. Their slim playoff hopes rested on their ability to recover the puck on the forecheck and get a quick goal.
The complaint is then that Burrows came in with no intent to play the puck, but clearly only had eyes to make a hard hit on McDonagh, with his hands and stick up rather than down along the ice. I’m not really sure what the argument is here, though: hitting is part of the game of hockey.
McDonagh had the puck so Burrows had two options: he could try to poke check him with his stick, risking that McDonagh slips by him, gets around the net, and clears the puck or he could try to hit him to separate him from the puck. He chose to make the hit and it worked. As the whistle blew, the Canucks had gained possession of the puck and were sending it to the point for a shot. It was a hockey play to regain possession of the puck on the forecheck that had an unfortunate result.
The other argument I saw rested on Burrows reputation: he’s a dirty or cheap player, so the hit must have been dirty or cheap. Burrows gets no benefit of the doubt from opposition fans: if his hands were a little high, then he was clearly aiming for the head with an intent to injure. If it was late in the game, it can’t have been an ordinary hit on the forecheck, it must have been predatory on an unsuspecting player.
Here’s the thing: that’s not actually his reputation. Burrows certainly has a reputation for cheap or dirty moves, but they’re all in post-whistle scrums or fights. I’m not going to defend the times that he has bit fingers or pulled hair, but I will absolutely defend him if someone claims he has a history of cheap or dirty hits. He’s not that type of player. Someone who claims he has a reputation for dirty hits doesn’t have any idea what they’re talking about.
With the Department of Player Safety giving Burrows a pass on the McDonagh hit, Burrows has yet to receive a single suspension in his career.