Should OV be Suspended?

While Chicago Blackhawks defenceman Brian Campell laid motionless on the ice with a broken collarbone and ribs yesterday after being checked into the end boards of the United Center by Alex Ovechkin with just under 8 minutes remaining in the first period, the words “dirty player” and “reckless” were immediately being used to describe the Great 8.  Ovechkin was imemdiately tossed from the game after being assesed with a five-minute major penalty and a game misconduct – his third time being tossed from a game this season. All game misconducts are automatically placed under review by the commissioner’s office for a possible suspension, as well as awarding the player involved with a fine.

I would be very surprised if this play resulted in a suspension.  A lot of people will be calling this a “repeat offender” incident and that after the Cooke no suspension, OV needs to be made an example of… However, is this the right time?  There really isn’t ever a “right time”, but surely this can’t possibly be it. I believe this wholeheartedly, and even more so especially after I reviewed the rules.

44.1 Checking from Behind – A check from behind is a check delivered on a player who is not aware of the impending hit, therefore unable to protect or defend himself, and contact is made on the back part of the body. When a player intentionally turns his body to create contact with his back, no penalty shall be assessed.

Okay so it wasn’t a hit from behind, because A) Campbell saw him B) OV actually made contact with his side.

42.1 Boarding – A boarding penalty shall be imposed on any player or goalkeeper who checks an opponent in such a manner that causes the opponent to be thrown violently in the boards. The severity of the penalty, based upon the degree of violence of the impact with the boards, shall be at the discretion of the Referee.

There is an enormous amount of judgment involved in the application of this rule by the Referees. The onus is on the player (or goalkeeper) applying the check to ensure his opponent is not in a vulnerable position and if so, he must avoid the contact. However, there is also a responsibility on the player with the puck to avoid placing himself in a dangerous and vulnerable position. This balance must be considered by the Referees when applying this rule.

Any unnecessary contact with a player playing the puck on an obvious “icing” or “off-side” play which results in that player being knocked into the boards is “boarding” and must be penalized as such. In other instances where there is no contact with the boards, it should be treated as “charging.”
Alright well even though the hit was initiated far from the boards > 11 feet, because Campbell was “thrown violently into the boards”, technically that was a boarding call.  A penalty should be and is assessed.

42.3 Major Penalty – The Referee, at his discretion, may assess a major penalty, based on the degree of violence of the impact with the boards, to a player or goalkeeper guilty of boarding an opponent (see 42.5).

42.4 Match Penalty – The Referee, at his discretion, may assess a match penalty if, in his judgment, the player or goalkeeper attempted to or deliberately injured his opponent by boarding.

42.5 Game Misconduct Penalty – When a major penalty is imposed under this rule for a foul resulting in an injury to the face or head of an opponent, a game misconduct shall be imposed.

Campbell was injured, but the injury was not to his face or head.  I’m not saying that his type of injury is to a lesser degree, just illustrating what the rule specifically calls for.  His injury as reported currently is either a broken collarbone or broken rib due to his shoulder and side impact on the boards.  The case for “intent” is even more dicey as the hit initiated so far away from the boards it’s incredibly hard to say that it was to deliberately injure Campbell.  Then taking into consideration this was a push and not a full check.

Now, I admit I have a bit of bias being a Caps fan, and I honestly could have seen this hit as easily being a double minor, but I now understand the logic for even the Game Misconduct.   Looking at it thoroughly though I don’t agree with it being made into a case for suspension, because A) I don’t think the intent was there B) the injury wasn’t to the head for rule #42.5

Also the following needs to be considered when calling for a suspension:

* The hit was initiated above the End Line( >11 ft)
* Campbell saw the hit coming
* The hit was initiated using Campbell’s side, not his back
* Campbell caught his right skate and lost his footing

It is incredibly unfortunate that Campbell was injured on this play, and I hate seeing any player injured, Cap or other.  However, when you consider that OV missed 80% of the game, consider already that is a single game suspension.  Now what comes as a surprise to me is when a person is asking for 2+ games on this incident. 9 out of 10 times, Campbell doesn’t hit a rut and doesn’t fall awkwardly into the boards and we aren’t even having this conversation.  Don’t get me wrong, every player is responsible for their own actions and the resulting play, especially OV, but making a case that this was a deliberate attempt to injure Campbell and outside of the rules warranting a suspension, is a stretch.  In the end, don’t be surprised if this is another “non-suspension” passed down from Campbell.  He might even rescind the Game Misconduct, as clearly the wording doesn’t make it applicable.