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Boarding = "Enormous amount of judgment"

Mike Milbury's defense of Alex Ovechkin's hit on Sunday cycled back to the current debate over the NHL's subjective interpretation of the rules, both by on-ice officials and in supplemental discipline.

"Nobody knows what's a penalty and what's not a penalty," Milbury complained. "We've got to get it right so these guys know what's in the rulebook and what's not in the rulebook, what's a penalty and what's not."

Having never sat down and read the NHL rulebook cover to cover, I was surprised Monday morning to discover that the NHL openly admits that these are subjective matters, which will inevitably be viewed differently by different folks. Give them credit for honesty, at least. Here is the official rule about boarding:

42.1 Boarding - A boarding penalty shall be imposed on any player or goalkeeper who checks an opponent in such a manner that causes the opponent to be thrown violently in the boards. The severity of the penalty, based upon the degree of violence of the impact with the boards, shall be at the discretion of the Referee.

There is an enormous amount of judgment involved in the application of this rule by the Referees. The onus is on the player (or goalkeeper) applying the check to ensure his opponent is not in a vulnerable position and if so, he must avoid the contact. However, there is also a responsibility on the player with the puck to avoid placing himself in a dangerous and vulnerable position. This balance must be considered by the Referees when applying this rule....

42.3 Major Penalty - The Referee, at his discretion, may assess a major penalty, based on the degree of violence of the impact with the boards, to a player or goalkeeper guilty of boarding an opponent (see 42.5)....

42.5 Game Misconduct Penalty - When a major penalty is imposed under this rule for a foul resulting in an injury to the face or head of an opponent, a game misconduct shall be imposed....

When a major penalty is imposed under this rule, an automatic fine of one hundred dollars ($100) shall be imposed. If deemed appropriate, supplementary discipline can be applied by the Commissioner at his discretion (refer to Rule 29).

The only truly ridiculous element from all of that is the $100 fine. Seriously, $100? That's .00008 percent of $124 million.

But other than that, it's actually a reasonable explanation of what will often be a controversial call by on-ice officials watching a game played at blinding speeds.

I guess one other curious part to me is that the major penalty depends on "the degree of violence of the impact with the boards," rather than the intent or actions of the boarder. A hit could be delivered with nastier intent than Ovechkin's and still result in a less violent impact, based on the size of the players and a host of other factors.

Regardless, Milbury's complaint notwithstanding, I think I'd prefer a league admit that there is "an enormous amount of judgment" involved in something like this, with the implication that controversy is inevitable, rather than pretend there's some perfectly objective way to rule on this.

Because look, longtime hockey writer Tim Sassone wrote this:

It was a needless shove by Ovechkin, who then did what he normally does after one of his reckless plays and claimed he was innocent of any wrongdoing.....I've watched the replay a dozen times and Ovechkin shoved Campbell hard into the boards from behind when such a play did not need to be made. Campbell was only a few feet from the boards with his back to Ovechkin and the puck was gone.

While longtime hockey writer Scott Burnside wrote this:

Did he deserve a penalty? Sure. But was it reckless? No. Was it predatory or intended to injure? No. And so, this Ovechkin incident should pass -- unlike the Cooke hit, which went unpunished -- because it is the right thing to do.

So if they can't agree -- after watching numerous replays from several angles and having time to think about what they're seeing -- it's impossible to expect on-ice officials to rule with objective perfection.

(With thanks to Brian McNally's fine work.)

By Dan Steinberg  |  March 15, 2010; 10:31 AM ET
Categories:  Caps  
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Comments

Campbell is out with a broken collarbone. According to the rules, Ovechkin should not have had a game misconduct. Last time I checked, the collarbone is not part of the head or face.

Posted by: Joran | March 15, 2010 10:49 AM | Report abuse

I've heard people - read, people who hate Ovechkin - argue that any other guy would get a suspension, but Ovechkin will dodge one because Bettman wants to protect him. That's clearly not the case; in fact, it's the opposite. If some scrapper on the third line makes this hit, no one will remember it. But because it's Ovechkin and he already has firmly entrenched camps of haters and defenders, it's going to - and already has become - a huge issue.

In any event, if you thought the boos were loud before, wait until you hear them now. (Although any Pens fan who cheers for Matt Cooke would be a hypocrite to do so.)

Posted by: theamazingmouse | March 15, 2010 10:52 AM | Report abuse

BTW, Ovechkin was on the receiving end of the exact same hit recently. No penalty. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gkQKBGAQExQ

Posted by: theamazingmouse | March 15, 2010 10:59 AM | Report abuse


It's freakin hockey, not ballet. Should had been 2 minutes and get on with the game.

Posted by: hessone | March 15, 2010 11:09 AM | Report abuse

I agree with Milbury. The NHL is getting too PC with their interpretations of illegal hits.

The Matt Cooke hit was to the head and if they want to punish that, fine, although those type of hits were never illegal as of a few yrs ago (as long as the elbow wasn't involved). There have been at least 10 notable hits like that over the past 2-3 yrs in the league similar to Cooke's. Some resulted in suspensions, some didn't.

Ovechkin's hit should not have been even a penalty. Pushing a player who is 4 feet from the boards and has the puck in his skates has never been looked at as illegal.

Posted by: cstanton1 | March 15, 2010 11:15 AM | Report abuse

It was a needless shove by Ovechkin, who then did what he normally does after one of his reckless plays and claimed he was innocent of any wrongdoing.....I've watched the replay a dozen times and Ovechkin shoved Campbell hard into the boards from behind when such a play did not need to be made.
------------------

this writer's a tool. He has absolutely no idea what he's saying. Needless shove? So now we're going to police what is needless ? A lot of "needless" stuff happens on the ice. What about when a player finishes a check on another player a few seconds after the puck has been passed off? That's fairly needless, but thats not a penalty. The only time a play like that should be called a penalty is if its an interference call where either the targeted player never rec'd the puck or its been an inordinately long amount of time after he has dished off the puck. Campbell had just barely gotten rid of the puck as he got shoved. That's not a needless play by Ovechkin. What if Campbell was up against the boards facing Ovy, would that still be considered needless if he got creamed into the boards after passing the puck? of course not. That would just be considered a good hit. What if a player got hit into an open bench door on the players' bench? is that a penalty?

Posted by: cstanton1 | March 15, 2010 11:20 AM | Report abuse

@ Joran -- Really?

I was at the game and the hit was unnecessary and dangerous. It happened right in front of us and there was no reason to assist in Campbell hitting the boards. I wasn't happy Ovi was tossed but I agree with the 5 he initially received. I have seen lesser and more major violations go either way so it wasn't a surprise.

If he didn't get tossed the game would have gotten ugly, it would have turned into the Vancouver game of last year. I hope these two teams have a 7 game series to settle in June and I hope both teams focus on the game and not what happened yesterday.

Posted by: pnote13 | March 15, 2010 11:30 AM | Report abuse

Your first mistake Steinbog is reading the NHL Suggestion book.

Everything written in there is "open to interpretation" and very often brazenly ignored at one point or another.

Like for instance last Thursday and Suggesion 41 as it related to Dan Carcillo.

Posted by: CapsNut | March 15, 2010 11:36 AM | Report abuse

It was a weak check for sure, Ovechkin just pushed him. A two minute penalty sure, but that's about it. That incident was incidental that's all I will say on it and that's all I think should be said. Now the hit on Marc Savard was intentional. I would say 100% of the 'cheap' shots you've seen since the 1970's were just that, CHEAP shots. I've played hockey my whole life, I knew when I dished out a good hit or not, so do these guys. They need to be held accountable and harshly punished so THEY stop themselves. Cooke should be out at least as long as Savard is unable to play. The league needs to install a "no tolerance" policy and ban/suspend/prosecute these criminal players, but they are afraid to lose revenue. (Which is crazy, look at the Olympics, no fighting, no intent to injure and it was exciting and watchable.) I've repeatedly emailed Mr. Bettman about this 'assault' type of play (to which I have never had a response) and have warned him, someone is going to die and it will be on his watch.
My prayers and thoughts to Marc Savard as I fear his brilliant career is over right after it just got started.

Posted by: altsys1 | March 15, 2010 11:40 AM | Report abuse

the difference in the Cooke incident is that Cooke is a Penguin and Ovechkin is not.

Posted by: lornemyoung | March 15, 2010 12:14 PM | Report abuse

I agree with the call on the ice. At game speed, without benefit of replay, the push from behind seemed to warrant the major and the misconduct.

The weird thing is I actually agree with both Sassone and Burnside. It was a needless shove. But that doesn't mean it was made with intent to injure. The penalties should suffice, and no suspension should follow.

And both Steinberg and Milbury (gasp!) are right. The rulebook does need to allow some level of interpretation of the rules. However, the current level of discretion is extreme, and the emphasis of the calls has even switched mid-season (and then invariably will change again once the playoffs have begun). Without a standard, it becomes impossible to have a physical hockey game.

Bettman and the owners need to resolve this issue sooner than later.

Posted by: JohninMpls | March 15, 2010 12:45 PM | Report abuse

I don't think it was needless at all. With one tiny shove, Ovechkin showed that he is a manimal capable of severe destruction. Beware!

What we should be talking about is that it took just 2:16 to score three goals on the road against a legitimate Cup contender without our best player. The Caps have shown the ability to win any type of game this season, which bodes well for the playoffs.

Posted by: Section104 | March 15, 2010 12:48 PM | Report abuse

I literally just watched the video of the push over and over and over. It does no good to slow it down because hockey is played at full speed. But there are a number of unfortunate things that happen that result in injury - which is usually the case.

First, anyone who has laced up skates knows the physics behind a push vs. a check. OV clearly splays his legs wide to get leverage, but also slowing himself down. He knows where he is on the ice, what he's about to do, and he's bracing for it. If Campbell doesn't catch an edge while turning, OV pushes through him and they go sliding, on their feet, into the boards together. But Campbell catches an edge and since OV gets him up high, he gets pushed over.

Since it all happens at hockey speed, this is a boarding penalty. Any ref who sees it is going to call that, and OV knew he was in trouble the second he hit the ice. But it's not intent to hurt, nor is it dirty. Of course, there are those who say, "OV...just do the smart thing and pull up." But that's not his style.

Posted by: Rainier1 | March 15, 2010 12:58 PM | Report abuse

"I was at the game and the hit was unnecessary and dangerous. It happened right in front of us and there was no reason to assist in Campbell hitting the boards."

Are you serious? No checks are "necessary" and all of them are "dangerous". Hockey is a contact sport and if Campbell doesn't lose an edge the play is completely forgotten. That play happens 15 times a game but usually the player doesn't go down and hit awkwardly. It's called finishing your checks and good teams do it.

Posted by: ouvan59 | March 15, 2010 1:16 PM | Report abuse

Let's not forget who Ovie is. He is bigger and stronger than almost all the players on the ice. Plus he can skate better - faster. So, while I'm not sure he should be suspended. I think this was a boarding penalty simply because of the result of the play. I don't think Oview was out to get him. But Ovie can out skate these guys and so, they are by definition at risk. Any time two players are flying into the boards at 25 mph and one shoves the other from behind there is potential for injuury. And if its Ovie doing the pushing no doubt there is a bigger chance. I think on the one hand it's hockey. On the other he should have done more to protect himself - knowing who was riding his heels. Just because Ovie is a bull in a china closet doesn't mean it's up to him to watch out for everyone safety - players need to assume that role for themselfes.

Posted by: Jaymand | March 15, 2010 1:17 PM | Report abuse

"First, anyone who has laced up skates knows the physics behind a push vs. a check. OV clearly splays his legs wide to get leverage, but also slowing himself down. He knows where he is on the ice, what he's about to do, and he's bracing for it. If Campbell doesn't catch an edge while turning, OV pushes through him and they go sliding, on their feet, into the boards together. But Campbell catches an edge and since OV gets him up high, he gets pushed over.

Since it all happens at hockey speed, this is a boarding penalty. Any ref who sees it is going to call that, and OV knew he was in trouble the second he hit the ice. But it's not intent to hurt, nor is it dirty."

This +1

Posted by: ouvan59 | March 15, 2010 1:20 PM | Report abuse

44.1 Checking from Behind – A check from behind is a check delivered on a player who is not aware of the impending hit, therefore unable to protect or defend himself, and contact is made on the back part of the body. When a player intentionally turns his body to create contact with his back, no penalty shall be assessed.

44.2 Minor Penalty - There is no provision for a minor penalty for checking from behind.

44.3 Major Penalty – Any player or goalkeeper who cross-checks, pushes or charges from behind an opponent who is unable to protect or defend himself, shall be assessed a major penalty. This penalty applies anywhere on the playing surface.

44.5 Game Misconduct – A game misconduct penalty must be assessed anytime a major penalty is applied for checking from behind.

Posted by: rpezold | March 15, 2010 1:23 PM | Report abuse

Boarding is a BS call in the first place. There's already penalties for cross-checking and hitting from behind, so why do we need one for hitting someone into the boards, which happens dozens of times per game?

Posted by: butcherbaker | March 15, 2010 1:28 PM | Report abuse

I take exception to Hessone's comment... as a ballet dancer I have been dropped, thrown, knocked down and injured at heights, depths and speeds comparable to any professional athlete... but unlike the Blackhawks... I can take it without a whine and a moan. And, I'm a girl!

Ovi is treated differently because he is a champion with no equal. How can you herald a man for his strength and skill while asking him to constantly hold back so no one gets a boo, boo on the ice? In deference to my beloved dance, I recall that hockey players do NOT wear sequined skirts and leotards (with the exception of Crosby, perhaps).

Yes, it was a push, no it was not meant to knock him in the boards, yes it was from the side… or are some of these commentators blind and stupid? I think he gave him a push that you see a MILLION times during these games. Campbell fell as a result and was injured because he slid into the boards… physics. It was a major penalty, but an ejection was not warranted.

Posted by: etriscari | March 15, 2010 1:29 PM | Report abuse

rpezold: You are aware that the call Ovechkin was booted for was boarding, not checking from behind, right? Also, the rules that you just laid out stipulate that the player is unaware of the checking player's presence. Campbell was certainly aware that Ovechkin was on his ass. That's why they didn't call it.

Posted by: theamazingmouse | March 15, 2010 1:51 PM | Report abuse

Champion without equal? That had me rolling on the floor, etriscari. Ovechkin needs to win the Cup to be called a champion. I played hockey as a child, and was checked from behind into the boards during a game. I luckily only got a concussion from the hit. Campbell wasn't so lucky, but a broken collarbone is nothing to sneer at. His season may be over. Ovechkin needs to think about his actions. You wouldn't see Gretzky, Lemieux, Messier, or any of the other greats blatantly & foolishly doing these things that could hurt himself and others. Physicality is key in hockey, but skill & strategy mean just as much.

Posted by: puckina1979 | March 15, 2010 2:02 PM | Report abuse

obviously, it was a foul. i'm not sure it was a major penalty though. with regard to sassone's comment " . . . as he usually does . . .", well that's already saying that he has a bias against ovie which it seems many people do. i immediately throw out someone's opinion when it is tempered in this fashion. ovie plays hard and i hope this situation doesn't change how he plays. i do wish what i perceive to be sidney support and ovie oppression would stop because a) the playoffs are coming and 2) this is getting absolutely ridiculous. toward the end of the game, semin was boarded and got no call. if this is the officiating we can expect in the playoffs we're out after the first series. we should not have to battle the refs time and again.

Posted by: papple | March 15, 2010 2:03 PM | Report abuse

puckina1979,
glad you're rolling on the floor. ovechkin is a world champion, dip-sh--. stick to talking about something upon which you're educated.

Posted by: papple | March 15, 2010 2:16 PM | Report abuse

All that counts in the NHL is the Cup, papple. Lovely language, by the way. You kiss your mother with those dashes?

Posted by: puckina1979 | March 15, 2010 2:25 PM | Report abuse

You wouldn't see Gretzky, Lemieux, Messier, or any of the other greats blatantly & foolishly doing these things that could hurt himself and others.

------------------------

One of these things is not like the other two. Mario Lemieux was NEVER a threat to win the Lady Byng trophy for gentlemanly play.

Posted by: 74umgrad1 | March 15, 2010 2:37 PM | Report abuse

Puckina,
unlike you, I don't kiss my mother. "all that matters is the NHL cup"? so hs world championship doesn't count? Oh, okay. How about we get the rest of the world in on this discussion.Glad you changed your stance. You obviously don't have a clue what you are talking about. I'll let you have the last word.

Posted by: papple | March 15, 2010 2:54 PM | Report abuse

what was the injury to the head/face that made this worthy of a game misconduct? he had a broken collarbone and ribs. Those, last time I checked, are not in the head or face.

Posted by: j762 | March 15, 2010 3:12 PM | Report abuse

You don't kiss your mother, papple? I sure do.....Sorry, that was too easy. Dude, we're talking about the NHL in this forum, not the World Championships or the Olympics. When he & the Caps win a Stanley Cup, not "the NHL cup" as you put it, champion will be appropriate. BTW, Lemieux was a bad example. I just thought of him off the top of my head because of the Stanley Cups he's won.

Posted by: puckina1979 | March 15, 2010 3:13 PM | Report abuse

puckina, i'm glad you kiss your mother. if you are going to limit this conversation in context, it would be wise to preface it with "in the nhl". as i recall (and i'm not going to look it up), the original poster called him a champion. you took issue with that. nonetheless, he is a champion no matter what you think. next time you mean "stanley cup" is the only thing that counts, say it right the first time. i just think that your statement "rolling on the floor" in response to the fact that he is a champion and, according to many nhl and world players (jagr comes to mind), without equal is ignorant. facts are facts. opinions are like . . . . in any event, everyone has one.

Posted by: papple | March 15, 2010 3:25 PM | Report abuse

I'd like to see what the Caps fans would be saying if it was Ovechkin who was checked into the boards the same way and suffered a broken collarbone.

Posted by: Sluggo2 | March 15, 2010 4:32 PM | Report abuse

Cambell also has a possible concussion.

Posted by: daviddilts | March 15, 2010 4:36 PM | Report abuse

I hate to break it to you Cap fans,but everyone else knows Ovechkin is a cheap shot artist. Some goon is gonna hunt him down and the rest of the league will cheer!

Posted by: hughsie48 | March 15, 2010 4:46 PM | Report abuse

That's complete horse***t! I just watched Adams' hit on Ovechkin again and that was clearly more malicious. Ovechkin was not going down as the announcers will lead you to believe. Adams got away without even a 2-minute penalty. Total crap!

Posted by: garg8050 | March 15, 2010 5:15 PM | Report abuse

Puckina, so funny that you put Messier up there as an example of a player who isn't dirty. Obviously, you've never watched him play.

Posted by: dfe1 | March 15, 2010 6:48 PM | Report abuse

As stated by me elsewhere (and probably many times over): I disagree on the suspensionworthiness of the hit to begin with. I fully expect to see (but know I won't) two-gamers doled out for most contact at a face-off, against a wall, in front of the crease, which is often much harder. Players push each other all the time. It was an unfortunate outcome, but if Cooke had pushed Ovechkin the same way Ovi pushed Campbell, and he was out for the season, I'd still think it's not a suspensionworthy hit.

Posted by: Grooven | March 15, 2010 6:58 PM | Report abuse

I think Ovie is over compensating for the loss of Brasheer. I think if we had more of an enforcer on the team Ovie would not feel the need to throw his weight around as much.

Posted by: chillwill1 | March 15, 2010 7:10 PM | Report abuse

I think Ovie is over compensating for the loss of Brasheer. I think if we had more of an enforcer on the team Ovie would not feel the need to throw his weight around as much.

Posted by: chillwill1 | March 15, 2010 7:10 PM | Report abuse

Colin Campbell is lookingout for his son whom the CAPS will play tomorrow, happened last susension as well. Bettman and Campbell must go...pureand simple. I am not even that upset about the suspension, forced rest for him before the playoffs. Last time he came off suspension I believe he came out flying...

anyways, this league is turning into a joke regarding discipline. No consistency whatsoever.

i wonder what Savard thinks of this suspension compared to the gy who sdelined him.

Posted by: CelticFCbhoys | March 15, 2010 7:38 PM | Report abuse

The right suspension is that the player has to stay out as long as the other player is injured.

Then, you add an additional number of suspension games in games against the team/player the penalty was committed. So Ovie is out as long as Campbell is out, plus suspended for 2 additional games vs Chicago/Campbell.

A few games ago, a Montreal player committed a similar penalty against the Scott Nichol of San Jose. Guy got a 4 game suspension, though Nichol only missed 2 or 3 games.

If the suspension is tied to the injured player, it would mean players would be much more reluctant to make dangerous cheap shots.

Posted by: zcezcest1 | March 15, 2010 8:54 PM | Report abuse

The NHL also needs to look into a different kind of board.

Baseball padded the fences year ago to reduce injuries, I'm sure hockey could make a similar sort of change without changing the basics of the game.

Posted by: zcezcest1 | March 15, 2010 9:06 PM | Report abuse

Hey Zcezcest1.....that the dumbest motherf-ing idea ever proposed on this fine website. I recommend that you kick your own ass for posting something so stupid.

Posted by: dwolfe1519 | March 15, 2010 9:59 PM | Report abuse

Altsys1 is entirely correct. Even when the league calls for an automatic suspension, it throws out the rule book for the Penguins - see Malkins 'sending a message' in last year's SC Finals by dropping the gloves and going after Zetterburg. The Cooke hit is final proof. The only automatic thing going on here is if it is a 50/50 call, and you are a Cap, you will be sitting a couple of days. I really think it may be impossible for the Capitals to EVER win a Stanley Cup ,with the league being utterly and irreperably biased towards Canadian players and teams (Pens are Canadian owned anyway...).
The league is starting to embarrass itself now....WWF?

Posted by: Pius5 | March 16, 2010 8:14 AM | Report abuse

Tempest in a teapot. Clearly the league is out to shackle Ovie and will judge him after the fact on hits like this. A penalty was warranted, but the rule on game misconduct states "head or neck injury" and Campbell's gong clearly didn't get rung. (Yeah, I know they're claiming "possible concussion" now, but the evidence doesn't bear it out.) So the suspension is just piling it on because they're intent on singling Ovie out now.

Posted by: laboo | March 16, 2010 9:14 AM | Report abuse

"head or neck injury"

It's actually head or face injury.

Posted by: VTDuffman | March 16, 2010 9:38 AM | Report abuse

Actually, that the ref called this a Boarding penalty and not Checking From Behind is a gift to Ovechkin. Both are serious penalties, and CFB happens to be the most serious in the sport of ice hockey. For information on hockey from people who actually know the sport, I'd encourage WaPo sports section writers to read what Canadian journalists are saying...

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/blogs/globe-on-hockey/controversy-where-there-should-be-none/article1501608/

Posted by: dc-chi-guy | March 16, 2010 7:02 PM | Report abuse

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