Kronwall: Dangerous, Not Dirty (Or the NHL: Not a Sport For Cowards)

Leading off anything with a Barry Melrose quote is almost never the right decision.  However, this quote is so on point and so perfectly said that it can’t be denied, even if it comes from Barry Melrose on PTI:

“I don’t want it to get to the point where cowards can play our sport.”

If there is any suspension of Kronwall for his hit on Selanne, then the NHL will have effectively removed open ice hits from the sport.  No longer will players have to keep their head up or worry about the defense, rather it will become a talented version of beer league hockey.  Every beer league has that kid who never did anything in high school because he was too scared to get his hands dirty in the corners but since there is no hitting, is finally an all-star in the beer leagues.  But ask anyone who played hockey, beer league hockey isn’t real hockey.  It doesn’t take the skill and courage that competitive hockey requires to be successful.  To take this sort of hockey to the NHL would be disastrous.

Provided he kept his elbow down and stayed on his feet before the hit (and I’m positive he did both), this is exactly the type of hit the NHL wanted to keep in the game when instituting the new rule.  The NHL has released a video showing what a good “north-south” hit looks like and it looks almost exactly like the one in question.

From the video at roughly 3 min 45 sec (which Bloguin prevents me from embedding): on a North-South hit, “the responsibility to remain aware remains with the player being hit.” It was completely on Selanne to be aware of Kronwall coming from directly in front of him and was his fault for having his head down.

The great “JJ From Kansas” has an incredible breakdown of the hit which I find to be completely on point but for one issue:

As far as the rulebook is concerned, Kronwall did nothing wrong.  His actions do not warrant a suspension here.  However, I need to throw one huge freakin’ caveat onto this entire article.  I do not like that Kronwall targeted Selanne’s head.  I don’t think the hit was illegal, suspendable, or more evidence that Kronwall always leaps into his checks, as the hyperbolic nitwits out there would have you believe, but I do think this hit was borderline dirty.  I don’t think Kronwall had to hit Selanne in the head and if the players want to get serious about getting dangerous head shots out of hockey, this is an example they should use.

While I respect JJ’s opinion, I do have an issue with calling this hit dirty. While technically true-he didn’t have to hit Selanne in the head-I ask what his other choices were?  A defenseman is taught to target the middle of the opponents chest with the shoulder.  That’s exactly what Kronwall did, the only problem was that Selanne lowered his head right to chest level.  If Kronwall targets to the outside of the head now, maybe he only clips him or maybe he completely misses the check.

So realistically he has no other choice here but to hit the middle of his target, the fault is on Selanne for lowering his head in that position.  To call something dirty implies that it is outside the rules, cheapshot or an intent to injure.  This was just a clean, hard open ice hit, one which he should have done.  Calling it dirty puts it on a slippery slope which I’m not comfortable with.  Babcock would rather call Kronwall dangerous:

“I think one of the comments was Kronner’s dangerous. He is. That’s why we like him.

It probably was dangerous and I like that.  But the most dangerous thing that happened on that play was Selanne skating with his head down, assuming that there wasn’t a freight train on the ice.  He was wrong and he paid for it, legally and cleanly. There is nothing dirty about that.  And without hits like this, how could we have great shirts like the one below from Winging it in Motown?