Reactions to last night's hit run the predictable spectrum. Lots of Isles fans want Dion Phaneuf's head. Some Flames fans say it was a glorious hit, some say it was technically legal but over-the-top for preseason. Outside those with rooting interests, some just hate Phaneuf, and some found it so unnecessary for a veteran who isn't fighting for his job in training camp. There is also the element who worry that every time we talk about this, we're "taking hitting out of the game" -- which, if you have more than a 5-second attention span, you know is not the case. People can't even agree why it was legal or illegal -- which is par for just about every NHL debate.
Me? I said my bit in the moment, so I'll rest on this: If a forward is responsible for keeping his head up and reacting to a third checker at the last second -- and he absolutely is -- that checker is also responsible for the movements of his own body, up to and including whether his arm flies away from his core and into the head of the opponent. Consider this: Great hitters deliver legal hits and end up still standing on their own two feet (hello, Scott. Hi, Denis). Phaneuf ended up on his ass.
Beyond the actual contact, though, there is something about our game and the care needed at today's increased speed, strength and size. I've always believed this but seldom see discussion of the nuances: There's a difference between a puck-carrier steaming solo over the blueline with his head down, and a player who just gained the puck in transition being funneled by two opponents into a predatory collision with a third.
Links to other reactions to the hit -- and some other news -- after the jump:
Other News of the Day
- NHLPA Kelly firing: Some high-powered agents and Chris Chelios (who somehow was still Wings player rep) are now wondering, "Wait, what was it we did again?"
- Coyote ugly: Jerry Moyes outlines the apocalypse he believes Glendale is facing. Of course, he stands to recoup a helluva lot more money this way, so the truth is likely in the middle.
- Preview time! On Goal Analysis has a fantasy-focused Islanders preview up.
Islanders player reactions: Quoth Martin Biron: "If you're going to play that way, you have to respond when challenged."
More on Phaneuf's declining to fight from Scott Gordon and Matt Martin via the Calgary Herald.
The players and many fans thought Phaneuf left his feet for the hit -- based on replay, I do not, but I know why they did think that in the moment: Because Phaneuf ends up on his ass and as out of the play as anyone afterward. Which tells me something about his hit; he wasn't prepared to take a man off the puck and then tend his position. Rather he was prepared to leave his position to try to destroy someone, consequences be damned.
Islanders Outsider: "Phaneuf is simply the next in a too-long line of guys who has no respect for the amount of damage he can inflict on another human being. You can't let up in the heat of the action? Of course you can, especially in an early preseason game. Phaneuf could have played the body any number of ways without taking the livelihood of a promising young player in his hands."
[Update] Doug's version over at IslesOfficial'sOutlook: "Phaneuf keeps his elbow IN, until the force of the impact drives his arm up and out. This was a shoulder check with am elbow follow through. Not uncommon but certainly not warranted in open-ice. What irks me about the hit is the total irrelevance to the play as a whole and the fact that he does LEAVE HIS FEET to deliver the hit."
Okposo Net: Knows not to expect a suspension.
Dee goes through a range of post-hit emotions and past incidents that immediately came to mind.
[Update] The Rivalry: An Islanders fan who says it sucks, but it was a clean hit. He also points out the interesting change of tune from Brent Sutter when it's not his son being hit.
The AOL Fanhouse staff debated whether this kind of hit -- legal or not -- belongs in the preseason. Also at Fanhouse: Chris Botta says Phaneuf should answer the call Saturday, but probably won't. Won't "be in the lineup," I mean.
Greg Wyshynski at Puck Daddy calls it legal, clean and entirely appropriate for a preseason game. And the elbow? "I don't believe he did intentionally, but that's not to say his elbow didn't make contact." But if his elbow did make contact, it's illegal. Period. Checkers are every bit as responsible for their bodily actions as the recipients who are actually playing the puck (the puck, that little item that is even more central to this game than Phaneuf's headhunting). If a player can't deliver a wreckless/awkward hit without controlling every part of his body, he's probably not good enough to be making that hit in that situation.
Matchsticks and Gasoline: "Hits like that will always make the perpetrator look like they've jumped into it, so I'll let others do the Zapruder thing if they wish, but I wasn't crazy about it. I know it's a hard man's game and all, but I never wish a potential concussion on anyone."
Finally, the most concise statement for the defense of Phaneuf: Two-Line Pass rants to justify the hit, focusing on whether he left his feet (but ignoring the possibility of the elbow). He also uses the timeless simplifications "Keep your head up" and "This is hockey, which, last I checked, is a contact sport." A truly wonderful cliche, but if life were really that simple, the rulebook's section outlining "Checking" would just read: "Contact."