A great deal is being made about Marian Hossa’s hit on Nashville’s Dan Hamhuis from late in the third period of Sunday’s epic Game Five victory for the Blackhawks. For the hit, Hossa received a five-minute boarding penalty, which encompassed the final 1:03 of regulation and subsequently the first 3:57 of the overtime period.
Many fans (not this one), analysts (Pierre McGuire), and coaches (Barry Trotz) are comparing the Hossa hit to the one Alexander Ovechkin put on Chicago’s Brian Campbell in mid-March. The emphasis from most complaints is that, if Ovechkin was suspended for two games for his hit on Campbell, shouldn’t Hossa be suspended for hitting Hamhuis?
There are a number of crucial differences that make the hits of Hossa and Ovechkin overwhelmingly different. First, let’s evaluate the evidence.
First, the Ovechkin hit on Campbell:
Next, the Hossa hit on Hamhuis:
Intially, it appears that these are two relatively similar hits. In fact, considering at face value that Ovechkin received a game misconduct for his hit on Campbell, it might become easy to question whether or not Hossa was underpenalized. However, that consideration is not only invalid, but laughable.
Let’s begin our argument by stating the elephant in the room: Ovechkin was a repeat offender. He had been called for an ugly boarding penalty earier in the 2009-10 season, and had been suspended already this season for a knee-to-knee hit. Contrary to that track record, Hossa’s resume has had many Chicago fans begging for him to be more physical. He’s had a few big hits in this series, but the rest of the season hasn’t seen a lot of heavy contact from Hossa.
The reality that Ovechkin was a repeat offender must be part of any discussion about these two penalties.
Secondly, let’s look at the points of contact. First, Ovechkin on Campbell:
As you can see here, Ovechkin’s arms are making contact with the back of Campbell. His arm is nearly touching the “5” on the back of Campbell’s jersey.
Now, let’s look at the point of contact for Hossa on Hamhuis from Saturday:
Clearly in this still frame you can see that Hossa is making contact with Hamhuis in the side-armpit region.
These stills make very clear that the points of contact from Ovechkin and Hossa were different; Ovechkin hit Campbell in the back, while Hossa made contact with Hamhuis from the side.
Now, let’s evaluate perhaps the most critical part of the evidence: the relation of the player being hit to the puck.
First, let’s look at where the puck is in relation to Campbell in March.
Next, let’s look at where the puck is in relation to Hamhuis on Saturday.
On Saturday, Hamhuis was pursuing the puck towards the boards in the final moments of a tight game; Chicago had already pulled their netminder at this point and were skating six. If Hamhuis didn’t know contact was coming, he doesn’t deserve to be in the NHL. In March, though, we can clearly see that Campbell had already dumped the puck into the corner and was beginning a meaningless circle of the net when Ovechkin shoved him into the boards.
With these two stills, again, we can clearly see that the hits are nowhere similar.
Finally, let’s evaluate the end result of the hits. Ovechkin knocked Campbell out for almost six weeks with a broken collarbone and rib. Hossa’s hit ended Hamhuis’ afternoon, but has not reportedly caused significant injury to the Predators defenseman.
So we’ve established that Hossa’s hit was A) not in the back, B) on a player who was playing the puck, and C) did not seriously injure the player. Based on those criteria, and with the perspective that Hossa is not a repeat offender, there is no legitimate reason for the NHL to suspend Hossa from Game Six.