NHL video on head shots, low hits: Wisniewski guilty, Pronger innocent

This is the league's new instructional video on blindsided head shots (automatic major penalty), low hits, and hits on icing, previously discussed in Anarcurt's FanShot. As a constant proponent of reducing the acceptability of brain-scrambling in the NHL game, I think this will help. But I'm not certain it completely clears things up.

 

For example, well into the video is a Chris Pronger hit on Jody Shelley (2:55 in the clip) that they call clean: "a legal shoulder check to the head where the player is skating north-south with the puck has to be aware of where he is and who is on the ice..."

I've watched the video multiple times, and I'm not sure how that hit is any less of a blindside hit to the head than the previous examples that they call illegal. The explanation doesn't fly, either: Shelley is receiving a pass along the boards, he's practically stationary, and is turning to go up ice -- not skating north-south at all like they say -- when Pronger delivers the blow. I know this hit, like open-ice hits, are classic, common occurrences, and I'm not saying Pronger's hit here should be illegal; I do agree that any hockey player in Shelley's position should expect the possibility the D-man will come in and cut him off with a big hit instead of retreat to let him break out of the zone. But if the focus is on hits to the head, then we need more detail here. Because "skating north-south" is not what's happening there at all.

Is it simply the relative lack of speed here compared to the more violent open-ice hits? (Just one body moving at a slower speed, instead of two bodies at high speed like we see with the open-ice collisions?) If so, they need to go into that rationale a little more.

This isn't an anti-Pronger thing, either. The more information and explanation the league puts out, the better we all (fans, players, refs, staff, reporters) understand the rules, and the fewer stupid arguments we have over what was legal or not. I may be missing something, but that hit, if it portrays the standard the league intends, should be elaborated.

Regardless, I wanted to post this clip and bookmark it on this site so we can refer to it later this season, when it inevitably comes up with the Islanders. (Not only does James Wisniewski (3:11) appear on it twice, and Micheal Haley once (1:50), but hits on the Islanders are routinely, uh, "underdisciplined," according to many fans.) The league's entering new territory here, so you know there will be human error and blink-of-an-eye misses; those are unavoidable. However rule interpretation errors are not.

Also: Very interesting that, after all these years, their prime example of an illegal low hit is still Darcy Tucker's Ulf-like knee-missile on Michael Peca. As we know, many Leafs fans will always insist there was nothing wrong with that hit.

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