Sunday, October 19, 2008

Kostitsyn Hit Anything But Legal

There is no news yet as to the condition of Canadiens forward Andrei Kostitsyn after being knocked unconscious by Phoenix Coyotes defenseman Kurt Sauer during Saturday's 4-1 Habs win.

News should be forthcoming in a day or so, after tests are done to establish the severity of the injury. As with any blow to the head, it is expected that matters will proceed cautiously.

Two things are angering me about the hit, and the lesser concern is that no penalty was called on the play. Considering the stagnant state of NHL officiating, it's almost not a surprise.

What bothers me most is that many are terming the check as a clean hit. I don't see it that way.

A clean hit is a body check, plain and simple. It is hip to hip, or shoulder to shoulder, but generally body against body. Clean checks never include targeting a player's head in any manner.

In this instance, Sauer raised both gloves together, one holding his stick, and thrusted into Kostitsyn's chest, above the logo. Sauer was practically immobile as Kostitsyn skated in on him, and the hit had the effect of a clothesline.

Watching the clip of the play included herein, one can see Kostitsyn leave his feet upon impact. His head then hits the glass before a second impacting blow, when he dropped to the ice. The injury, as yet not known, likely has been caused by the impact against the glass or the ice.

Some angles of the play pan straight down the right side boards, and show that Kostitsyn had perhaps six feet of room on the outside of Sauer to skate by. The defenseman instinctively knew where Kostitsyn would go, and chose the unsafest option to slow him down or stop him.

Defenders of the unclean check will state that it appears that Kostitsyn had his head down at time. That defense always makes me shudder.

Of course, it is good hockey sense and skill to skate heads up. In the instances in which a player bares down in stride and lowers his gaze to slip by an opponant, liberties are often taking to ring a player's clock.

However, the head down angle is still no excuse. Players simply should not target the one area of the body a rival will most need beyond his playing days. I find it inexcusable when players target the head area of a rival. There's never a good reason for it, especially when a body on body slam is a readily available option.

Kurt Sauer is not a dirty player, and it is reasonable to believe he simply acted instinctively to stop a slippery player. It happens all the time, but that doesn't make it right either.

In raising his forearms and fisted gloves into a round thrusting ball aimed at Kostitsyns upper torso area, Sauer committed a foul that ought to have been penalized. There wasn't a whole lot that was legal about the hit, other than Kostitsyn having puck possession.

Sauer's raised elbows also followed through on the impact. It's difficult to state for certain whether they were part of the blow to the head, but one can see Sauer's elbows leaning against the glass after Kostitsyn was bounced and is crumbling to the ice.

Because such moves commonly go uncalled in the speed and action of the game, it gives the impression that it is a tolerable play.

It might be, but it shouldn't be. When the head is involved, it is clearly a dangerous and disrespectful play. One that the rules of the game should be helping to deter.

From it all, I get the feeling that Kostitsyn will be okay after all proper precautions are taken. He most surely will be diagnosed with some grade of concussion. The fact that he rose to his feet himself, and resisted the use of a stretcher speaks of the trainers on the spot understanding that he was a good deal cognicent, if still somewhat dazed.

What is second in importance after his health will be his on ice recovery. Often an injury of the sort renders a player timid for a spell, and sometimes permanantly.

My take is that the elder Kostitsyn is one tough bugger, in an old time hockey kind of way. He won't allow such a thing to hinder him, just as he did not allow his epilepsy to hamper his career goals.

Photos courtesy of Habs Inside Out / Montreal Gazette


Remi said...

You know Robert, I agree with you completely. What I find so shocking is that the CBC commentator doesn't seem to feel there's any reason to believe the hit was illegal. He clearly states that it was a clean hit and that it was Andrei's fault even if Sauer clearly decided to take Kostitsyn's head and bash it against the board. I don't understand how anyone can even call that legal. Like you, I wouldn't blame the refs just because I'm sick of blaming them. They try to do their job, they just happen to be not so good at it. However, I do hope that the league will review the hit and consider suspending Sauer for 1 or 2 games just to pass a message along to all the players to act less unsportsmanlike. Maybe they should even change the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty to include momentary lapses in sanity.

Topham said...

This kind of hit, regardless of whether it is legal at the moment or not, has no place in hockey. It does nothing to enhance the game when players are hit in this way.

getting rid of hits like this will take education and probably stern penalties as motivation. The question is whether the NHL has the stomach to cause such an affront to the old boys of hockey who still think tomahawk stick work is part of fair play.

As for Andrei, I hope he will be OK. This is a majr major loss to the Habs, even with Tanguay seeming to gel.

Robert L said...

Topham - you bring up the word "education" and it reminds me of what is taught to 13 year old kids.

I go back to hip on hip, shoulder on shoulder, from my time as a coach then.

When the NHL is into deterrents as much as it is into dollars, they will get serious.

Unfortunately, it would take a similar injury to both Crosby and Ovechkin in the same season for the them to even get the hint!

Chuck said...

It's absolutely disgusting that some would label that a clean hit. It was absolutely unnecessary for Sauer to go him on him like that.

Bob Cole has a tough time seeing the player's numbers on their jerseys... but we're supposed to take his word that it was a clean hit?

Blows to the head have no place in the game... pure and simple.

Anonymous said...

Nothing wrong with the check. Unfortunate he hit his head on the boards and/or ice. Hope he's not seriously concussed, but if he had gotten up and skated away, no one would have given it a second look.

Robert L said...

But he did not get up and skate away!

You've missed the point entirely.

The way to check a player is not given to variables and "if's".

Anonymous said...

It's a perfectly clean Offensive Lineman play to push away a defensive end. Of course, that's a different sport.

As for the CBC: It's Bob Cole. You can hear the (damped down) excitement in his voice as the Hab is injured.

Note that Bob Cole has just been humiliated by the CBC: fired from his top spot and now forced to cover a very good Canadians team instead of wallowing with his beloved falling leafs.

Bob Cole, like Don Cherry and John Madden, is slowly losing his mind. I can only guess that the aging population is comforted that, even when senile, people can work.

Jeff said...

Kostitsyn is one of the toughest Habs on the ice. He'll be fine. I read reports that he was seen laughing and joking with his teammates after the game. He never even went to the hospital and denied the stretcher which was Brett-Favre-like courage in my opinion. He'll miss a few days for precaution and be back lighting the lamp in no time. That line needed a wake up call. Not to say i liked the hit, in fact, it made my skin crawl, but Plekanec especially has been asleep all year so far and if any good can come from a blow like that maybe its a rude awakening for our "top line".

RetroMikey said...

Who says Europeans are soft in the NHL?
Hope Andre is doing well.
Thank heaven Georges Laracque is our"policeman" and you gotta love Tom Kostopoulos going toe to toe with Sauer.
This tells you that we have a unified team and nothing will stop us in our quest for the Cup.
Great work on your blog Robert as always!
BTW, Robert, I cannot wait until we can download the mp3 files of the 1971 or 1973 finals.
Would sure be nice hearing Danny Galivan again.
When will you share the audio with us?

Robert L said...

Mikey - When I figure the darn thing out!

I'm missing something in the instructions. It could be awhile, but if I can't get it done, I'll send out copies.

Wamsley01 said...

It was a headshot. I have seen worse hits but the fact that it was a shot at the head was reason for a penalty and a suspension.

But the Campbell/Bettman combo have proved time and time again that they do not mind headshots as long as no elbow is involved.

Let's hope for the best and that Andei is not lost for an extended period of time.

Sulemaan Ahmed said...

Dirty hit. No question about it. But what comes around, goes around. Sauer will get his in due course.

Jimvinny said...

Sulemaan - As much as the habs fan in me wants revenge and to see Sauer get "his", as you put it, I would prefer to see this dealt with properly. One could hope that a suspension here, coupled with the suspensions assessed to our new least-favorite leaf, Ryan Hollweg, might go a ways towards preventing this type of incident in the future.

That being said, I doubt this will be the case, and so I am left with looking forward to a highlight of Sauer experiencing a star-and-tweety-bird inducing elbow. Small favors, I guess.

McK said...

It makes me so angry. I've been going over that in slo-mo and it doesn't even look like his head is down! And the announcers immediately say that it was a clean hit and his head was down. Ughh. Dirty dirty dirty.