We are coming up on the playoffs in the NHL, so I thought it was appropriate to give you a trends article on hockey. When you think about hockey and specifically the NHL the biggest trend that springs to mind first is cheapshots or head hits. Lately that is all the gets on television in the U.S., at least, in regards to hockey. The recent big hullabaloo over the Canadiens’ Max Pacioretty and Zedeno Chara incident brought the subject to the forefront once again. This kind of violence takes away from the game. It is a skilled game that is also physical but some take it too far. And that is a stain on what is a great game.
When I thought about some of the worst cheapshots I have seen over the course of my time watching hockey I realized that it is a small percentage of NHL players who engage in this type of behavior and it is the same players doing it over and over. It is obvious to everyone except the NHL brass that something has to be done to protect the players.
Here is my list of the top 10 cheapshots in no particular order of the last 30 years in the NHL:
1) Matt Cooke (Pittsburgh Penguins) on Fedor Tytutin (Columbus Blue Jackets) – 2011: This was a textbook dirty hit-from-behind. Cooke blindsided Tyutin, who was in a vulnerable position. He hit him in the back and left his skates in the process. Cooke was suspended for four games and luckily the Columbus player was not hurt.
2) Dale Hunter (Washington Capitals) on Pierre Turgeon (New York Islanders) – 1993: In game 6 of the Patrick Division semi-finals Hunter slammed the defenceless Turgeon after a goal. It began when Turgeon stole the puck from Hunter and scored. Hunter responded by taking a shot at Turgeon while he celebrated the goal. He was suspended 21 games while Turgeon suffered a separated shoulder on the play.
3) Chris Simon (New York Islanders) on Ryan Hollweg (New York Rangers) – 2007: Chris Simon was checked fairly but hard by the Rangers’ left winger and completely lost it. Simon’s response was a two-handed swing of his stick at Hollweg’s face. He was suspended 25 games.
4) Todd Bertuzzi (Vancouver Canucks) on Steve Moore (Colorado Avalanche) – 2004: After believing that Moore purposely hurt his teammate Markus Naslund and wasn’t even penalized for it, Bertuzzi took the law into his own hands. Todd Bertuzzi chased Moore around the ice trying to start a fight and Moore refused. After Moore turned away Bertuzzi grabbed Moore by the jersey and punched him in the back of the head. Both fell and Moore’s head hit the ice hard under the weight of the two bodies. Moore suffered 3 fractured vertebrae, a concussion and ligament and nerve damage. His career was over and Bertuzzi was suspended for what amounted to 20 games.
5) Matt Cooke (Pittsburgh Penguins) on Marc Savard (Boston Bruins) – 2010: The always dangerous Cooke blindsided Savard with an elbow to the head. Savard suffered a concussion and was out of the Bruins’ lineup for 2 months. He did play in the 2010 post season but did not start the 2010-11 season as he was still suffering from post-concussion symptoms. Somehow Cooke was not suspended.
6) Jesse Boulerice (Philadelphia Flyers) on Ryan Kesler (Vancouver Canucks) – 2007: In his own zone, Boulerice delivered a crosscheck directly to the face of Ryan Kesler. He was suspended for 25 games.
7) Marty McSorley (Boston Bruins) on Donald Brashear (Vancouver Canucks) – 2000: Donald Brashear and Marty McSorley, two heavyweights, fought and afterwards Brashear taunted the Bruins bench while on his way to the penalty box. Later while pursuing a puck Brashear collided with Bruins’ goalie Byron Dafoe resulting in Dafoe having to leave the game with a knee injury. McSorley challenged Brashear to a fight and was refused. With a few seconds left in the game he approached Brashear from behind and delivered a two-handed swing of his stick to Brashear’s temple. Brashear fell and hit his head on the ice suffering a concussion. McSorley was charged with and subsequently found guilty of assault. The NHL suspended him for a year. It was the longest suspension ever handed out by them and McSorley never played again.
8) Chris Simon (New York Islanders) on Jarkko Ruutu (Pittsburgh Penguins) – 2007: Jarkko Ruutu, admittedly a rather annoying player, fell to the ice near his bench and Chris Simon, who must have snapped, stamped on the fallen Ruutu. The result was a 30 game indefinite leave from Islanders. Has never returned to the NHL.
9) Dino Ciccarelli (Minnesota North Stars) on Luke Richardson (Toronto Maple Leafs) – 1988: As a result of this incident Ciccarelli faced some legal troubles. The rookie Richardson hit Ciccarelli from behind in the back. Ciccarelli’s reply was to hit him a couple of times in the head with his stick. Richardson wasn’t hurt but Ciccarelli was found guilty of assault and was forced to spend a day in jail and was fined $1,000.
10) Chris Pronger (Anaheim Ducks) on Ryan Kesler (Vancouver Canucks) – 2008: Pronger and Kesler got tied up in corner when suddenly Pronger stomped on Kesler’s calf. Despite the fact that this happened in the playoffs Pronger was suspended for 8 games.