I agree with Murray about the Scuderi Hit

Picture 1This is a response to some of the comments on the LAKingsInsider thread on the Murray quotes.

First, directed at rlplayer11 Re "caveman thinking"

This is what rl said in the comments:

"caveman thinking no wonder players don’t respect each oher when coachs and gm are telling them this crap is good but its easy when your sitting behind a desk or bench not the one having your knees taken out or your head smashed against the glass it doesn’t matter to them because there is plenty more down on the farm. nhl has lost alot of great players that fans no longer get to watch because coaches won’t evolve from back in the day, caveman thinking"

You don't understand. Murray is not saying dirty hits are fine. (c.f. Marc Crawford "allegedly" telling Bertuzzi to take Moore "out".) Murray is saying clean hits are fine. He's not saying that it was fine "in the old days" so it's okay now. He's saying it was, is, always has been and always will be a clean check. It's a hipcheck. It doesn't take out anyone's knees, nor is it intended to. Chimera's knees weren't hurt and, per my previous post on the video of the hit, it doesn't look like Scuderi hit anything but lower thigh. Is this a little low? Well, it's a little lower than usual. And if it were even more low -- which I would wager is nearly impossible -- it would have hit knee and that would have hurt. But, as they say, "if my grandma had wheels she'd be a wagon." But she doesn't. So she isn't.

Also, as an aside, the NHL has not lost any great players because of hipchecks. I would be surprised to learn that the NHL has lost a single player of any kind because of hipchecks. This is because hipchecks aren't dirty and generally don't hurt. Though they are spectacular to look at, and they are embarrassing to receive. See my past posts on this topic, if you give a s***. But the bottom line is, a hipcheck is a high-skill move that is not especially dangerous and it's the opposite of reckless. It's controlled. We're not talking about an elbow to the face or a butt-end or a boarding major.

Moving on:

There is a very weird assumption built into the idea that old school was "caveman" and the modern game is safer. Because you have it backwards. In the old days, players didn't wear helmets, sticks weren't curved, pucks didn't leave the ice surface as much due to the lack of curve, goalies didn't wear masks, pads were minimal and flimsy compared to modern pads, players were not as strong and not as big and not in as good physical condition (it's not my intention to debate player x from era y vs Ovi or whoever; I'm talking about the general state of things). Were there more serious injuries? No. Why is that? Several reasons:

  1. Players were more careful with their sticks when there were no helmets, because everyone was that much more exposed.
  2. Pads were not strong enough to be used as weapons. The shoulder pads I get at the pro shop now can knock a guy out, even in my old out of shape state. If I was using my pads of old, I would dislocate my own shoulder hitting someone that hard. Even if that's an exaggeration, it's a fact that checks from very big, strong people of that era were less dangerous because the force of the hit wasn't magnified by the pads.
  3. Players now are bigger, stronger, faster (again, on the whole). Hits are harder by yet another order of magnitude because the collisions are faster all the way around.
  4. Skate technology allows much, much faster skating and much quicker, more agile turning. This leads to an exponential increase in knee and leg injuries.
  5. Modern boards are stronger and stiffer, and the seamless glass is deadly, leading to a huge increase in concussions.
  6. There were six teams until '67, and 12 for several years after. The talent pool was smaller. The overall level of skill was much higher. Yes, the European exodus changed that. No, I'm not saying that the Original Six teams were better than today's Pens (etc.). What I'm saying is this: Thirty teams, lots of marginal talent playing that wouldn't be playing if there were fewer teams. So you have less skilled people, idiots, goons, whatever. There were goons in the old days, too. But they could also put the puck in the net. It's actually a little better now than it was in the first couple decades after expansion, but the greater disparity between the best players and the worst continues to make lopsided hits more likely to happen.
  7. The last and probably most controversial point is this: in the old days, before expansion and the advent of the utterly talentless knuckle-dragging goon, before the instigator penalty came in to assure that 90% of fights would be between two fourth line heavyweights when neither player was likely involved in whatever inciting incident occurred to necessitate "payback"...before all that...players were more likely to stick up for themselves and stick up for each other, i.e. the so-called culture of the players "policing themselves." I'm not a big fan of the old frontier justice model, but I get it, and it's pretty clear that it worked to keep the peace to a large degree.

A second commenter, dman, said this:

...But for a coach to come back the next day and more or less say it was a clean hit after the decision might confuse his players as to what is appropriate and what isn’t and where the boundaries are. I’m hoping the players feel that the league trumps the coach on what is acceptable behavior, but when the league isn’t always clear on the punishment and the coach adds to the confusion, well what’s a player to think! Old time hockey is great, but when the rules no longer apply, you have to adjust.

It's not confusing to the players. It's a hipcheck. Hipchecks are clean and legal. The boundary is that you are not allowed to use your ass (or back as in Scuderi's case) to check someone at or below the knees, which I would think is not even possible. To say nothing of desirable. There is literally no point to using a hipcheck to take out someone's knees. No one would intend to do that. If you want to do that, there are easier ways that don't involve swooping in backwards at full speed with your ass a foot off the ground like Nancy Karragan. And as far as the "old time hockey" comment, the rules not only still apply but haven't changed. A hipcheck is legal, safe and fun. Enjoy.

WWAMD says:

If someone did the same hit to Kopi he’d be all over that other player crying bloody mary.

If Kopitar were hipchecked, he wouldn't land on his face, because he has this thing called coordination. If Kopitar managed to land on his face after a hipcheck, I for one would have the same response, which is too bad he landed on his face. Most people don't land on their faces.

I think it's hilarious that people are up in arms about reckless hipchecking and even suggesting that this dangerous relic from caveman days might be better off rendered completely illegal. There are exactly two parts of the body you are allowed to use to check someone: your shoulder and your hip. Take the hipcheck out the game and you're left with shoulder checks. Shoulder checks are of course legal but are exponentially more dangerous than hipchecks, which, as body checks go, is a pleasant little flip through the air before you land ignominiously on your butt.

Scuderi lost a bit of control while applying the check on Chimera. The net result of which was that (a) he looked a little weird in the approach, (b) he got him on the lower thigh rather than the upper thigh, and (c) nothing. Chimera didn't sustain a knee injury of any kind. Not surprising because the hit didn't affect the knee. And there's no way even a low hit could in any way be more likely to cause the player to land on his face. The face thing was the scary part, and it had nothing to do with whether the hit was low, high or anything in between.

Scuderi cops to the hit being a bit low. He's a good egg, right? That's fine. But this issue of unsafe hipchecks that could destroy someone's knee is a non-starter. And that's what Murray is saying. And I obviously agree.


(the original LAKingsInsider post and comments are here.)