Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Ovechkin says sorry, but doesn't agree with suspension for Campbell hit

“I am very sorry that Brian was injured and I hope he is able to return to his team soon,” -- Part of a statement from Alexander Ovechkin who on Tuesday offered his best wishes for a speedy revovery to injured Black Hawk Brian Campbell.

The Black Hawks were receiving many messages on Tuesday, but the one they were most anxious for didn't come from Washington DC, instead it was the prognosis of the team doctor's, who delivered the bad news that at least eight weeks will need to pass before Brian Campbell suits up in a uniform for on ice action again.

Campbell was injured on Sunday morning, when the Capitals star player Alexander Ovechkin pushed Campbell into the boards early in the first period. Campbell awkwardly went into those boards and immediately left the game, suffering what eventually was diagnosed as collarbone and rib fractures.

The Ovechkin hit immediately became the talking point of Sunday's games, with the topic of hits to the head still fresh in everyone's mind, his hit from behind on Campbell added to the fuel of discussion on how much is too much when it comes to hitting in the NHL.

The NHL wasted little time in assessing a two game suspension to Ovechkin for his hit, a punishment that he has described as disappointing in a press release, claiming that he had no intention of injuring Campbell on the play and was only playing the game as he knows how, hard and with passion.

Ovechkin is an interesting study when it comes to the physical play of the game, he is by far one of the hardest hitters on the ice, at times seemingly reckless on the ice as he flies across it to finish a check or interupt an offensive attack. He has however been marked at times as bordering on the dirty, and with his status as a repeat offender this season, he was in that category of putting himself in danger of suspension by his actions.

Though to be fair to Ovechkin, not everyone believes that his act was a suspension worthy incident, Vancouver Canucks coach Alain Vigneault offered up the opinion, that in his view the hit was more of a fact of a stronger player pushing  a smaller one with unfortunate consequences.

And for Ovechkin it is his strength at times that seems key to his efforts.His play is filled with passion and he's clearly a strong player, perhaps one of the strongest in the league, yet there are times when he seems to have lapses as to what is an appropriate time to be physical. And while he no doubt is sincere in his apology to Campbell and his wishes for a speedy recovery, the simple fact is that he took a shot at the Hawk in a vulnerable position and by his actions Campbell is now out until at least the second round of the playoffs, should his team make it that far.

With the NHL having made such a quick call on Ovechkin's hit however now comes the backlash over previous missed opportunities to enforce some common sense in other high profile incidents, the recent Matt Cooke hit on Marc Savard a key example. The inconsistency of the NHL's department of Justice is making for easy deadline copy for the nations sportswriters.

National Post-- NHL’s lack of discipline continues to baffle
Globe and Mail-- A black eye for hockey
Globe and Mail-- NHL ought to believe in its own game
Globe and Mail-- Don Cherry blasts NHL on Marc Savard injury
Toronto Star-- The hits keep on coming
Toronto Star-- A New Approach?

Perhaps the fact that they singled out Ovechkin for suspension is to serve as a warning that no one is above their discipline.

The key aspect of the sudden surge of incidents clearly is a lack of respect for those that are playing the game, it may not be a conscious thing, but night after night it seems we're finding at least one incident of a player taking the physical play one step too far. A situation that is going to remove many of the games top names from action if it continues, some by injury, others by suspension, all of them an unwanted by product of a lack of respect.

National Post-- Hawks’ Campbell has broken clavicle, rib
Chicago Tribune-- Neither team satisfied with Ovechkin suspension
Chicago Tribune-- Brian Campbell’s injury huge void for Blackhawks to fill on defense
Chicago Sun Times-- Ovechkin, Hawks at odds over check

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