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Controversy where there should be none Add to ...

First up, the video of the Alex Ovechkin hit you have seen many, many times by now:



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There's really not a lot that shocks me anymore when it comes to reactions to plays (and suspensions) in the NHL, but I have to say I'm a bit surprised at some of the talk out of Washington these days. From owner Ted Leonsis on down, I've seen some just plain bizarre commentary on a hit that is and almost always has been both illegal and dangerous.

Here's Leonsis:

"When Ovechkin was tossed for basically pushing a Blackhawk player I received a bunch of emails. Some from our fans, some from Pens fans, and some from fans in Chicago. Suffice to say the opinions about the play ranged all over the map. I don't think Alex should have received a game misconduct for that play. I don't think he should miss our next game either."

That play, call it a push if you will, is always a penalty - and often a severe one - in hockey. I've seen that called my entire life, in the WHL, when I played in house league, in the NHL - everywhere. There's very, very little grey there; it's as black and white as it gets.

The suspension? Now that's a judgement call, but you better believe Ovechkin's priors came into play here. A lot has been written about how many times A.O. has gotten off scot-free after a dangerous play (think: the hit on Danny Briere), and it could only continue so long.

I personally would like to see every hit from behind result in a suspension of some sort, but that might be asking for just a wee bit too much clarity from the league's disciplinary team.

I've got a lot of close friends in the D.C. area and respect their take on many things hockey, but bringing the Matt Cooke decision in here (as Leonsis and others do) is really not relevant to a discussion about hitting from behind. Yes, the league opens itself up to having the issue clouded like this when it doesn't penalize egregious offences like Cooke's, but that's one of the reasons why a change in the rulebooks is needed to eliminate blindside hits to the head.

Hitting from behind, meanwhile, is a rule decades old, and given the potential consequences - and the number of players we've seen paralyzed at other levels - must always, always be dealt with strictly.

A two-game suspension is the least the NHL can do to attempt to ensure plays like Ovechkin on Campbell happen as rarely as possible. I've written too many stories like this one on Sebastien Savage; here's hoping none of us at this paper has to do the same for someone in the NHL anytime soon.

The Hat has more on the Ovechkin hit here.

Follow on Twitter: @mirtle

 

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