“Eliminating Concussions?”: Suspension For Marchand Would Reek Of Pure Hypocrisy From The NHL

On Saturday afternoon, in front of a 17, 565 sellout at TD Garden and a nationally televised audience courtesy of NHL Network, perhaps one of the most poorly and hastily made penalty calls of the season was made late in the second period of the highly anticipated Bruins and Canucks Stanley Cup Finals rematch.

It was at the 18:47 mark of the second frame that Canucks’ defenseman Sami Salo took a run at agitating Bruins’ forward Brad Marchand. Vancouver’s veteran Finnish defenseman took a five step run at Marchand from the blueline in an attempt to keep the play in the Boston zone. On instinct, the 5’8″ Marchand ducked the hit, and subsequently flipped Salo over his back. Unfortunately for Salo, it appeared as if he was injured on the play, as he immediately left the ice and did not return for the balance of the game. The hit can be viewed in the video below.

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Using the only natural advantage he has, no. 63 reaped the benefits of his small stature by avoiding what could have been a lethal hit from Salo. If you take a closer look at the replay, it’s clear that Salo had picked up steam in charging from the blueline and was leading with his elbow as he approached Marchand. Instinctively, Marchand went low to the ice to avoid taking a hit up high. In any case, it’s impossible to argument with a player taking action to protect himself from injury.  The travesty here is that the Bruins’ winger was not only issued a five minute major for “clipping”, he was also stuck with a game misconduct, resulting in ejection from the game.The fact is, Salo paid the price, in the form of his own concussion, for taking a run at a player he didn’t think would be craft enough to avoid the hit.

What’s worse? The Canucks’ scored their final two goals, including the game winner, during the ensuing five minute power-play.

Throughout the length of his young career, the B’s sophomore winger has been known to “toe the line” of getting under his opponent’s skin and taking things too far. However, head coach Claude Julien seemed to have no issues with the way no. 63 handled himself during the incident in question.

“I always told my players that they need to protect themselves” said Boston bench boss Claude Julien of Marchand’s alleged “clipping” attempt against Salo. Julien went on to point out how he would expect the league to be accommodating of players attempting to avoid being added to the seemingly never-ending list of players sidelined with concussions.

“The last thing I want my players to do is get hit and then end up with a concussion, and they have to protect themselves. Whether it’s the right way or the wrong way, it’ll depend on how the league looks at it. I’d rather have a guy take a two-minute penalty than turn his back to the play, stand up straight, and then get his face knocked into the glass and be out for maybe the rest of the year with a concussion, or maybe end his career like (Marc) Savard. So I think we have to really look at those kinds of things. In my opinion, if guys start protecting themselves the way Marchand did, maybe guys will stop taking runs at other guys because that’s the consequences you end up paying for taking runs at guys, too.” – Claude Julien

In this case, the B’s fifth year head coach is 110% correct. Faced with a decision to take a hit up high, or protect yourself in any way you can, the choice seems fairly obvious to any coherent individual. Especially in a league that has been absolutely decimated by concussions and head injuries.

Furthermore, early whispers from downstairs at TD Garden yesterday said that they may already be expecting NHL Discipline czar Brendan Shanahan to suspend Marchand for the incident.

Now, as news breaks this afternoon, no. 63 will indeed face a disciplinary hearing with Shanahan on Monday afternoon via conference call.

In this situation, I see no way anyone can justify any sort of suspension for Marchand, who was simply trying to protect himself from injury and what looked to be a run at the head by Sami Salo. In many ways, the hit also resembled Dan Hamhuis’ hit on Milan Lucic during last year’s Cup Finals, that rendered no supplementary discipline whatsoever for the Vancouver blueliner.

The bottom line is this: How can a league that consistently preaches the importance of limiting concussions penalize or even suspend a player who takes action to prevent it from happening to himself?

Answer? Amidst rampant talks of how to eliminate the impact of concussions in the sport, a suspension for Marchand would simply reek of hypocrisy and do nothing but damage the credibility of a league still trying to repair it’s (sometimes unfair) image of violence and hostility.

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About the Author: Boston Bruins writer for Hockey Independent. Michigan Fan. Street Hockey Agitator. My work has been featured at the New England and New York Hockey Journals, The Hockey Guys, and SB Nation Boston. Follow me on Twitter @_BWoodward or shoot me an email at BWoodward.HI@gmail.com!

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  1. Carrie says:

    Did you not see that at the beginning of the video, Salo and Marchand collided at the exact same spot, with no consequences? The exact same hit was about to repeat itself, but instead of taking it like a hockey player, he ducks like a little weasel. Funny how 10 seconds earlier, an identical play occurred, and Marchand came out of it fine, unless there’s a dislocated shoulder and a concussion other than Salo’s that nobody knows about.

    • Fact of the matter is this: In that situation, as a human being, your going to allow yourself to potentially be injured, as opposed to defending yourself? Salo took a run at him, a good 3-5 steps at least and was targeting the head. He paid the price for it.

  2. Charlie says:

    Carrie is 100% right. Marchand also went after him with two swings at his head after the 1st hit along the boards.

    He knew who was coming at him and took out his legs. Nevermind the fact he left the puck behind to deliver the hit. Why not just hit him like you did 30 seconds earlier?

  3. steeveebee says:

    Marchand did not deliver a “hit”. Salo attempted to deliver a hit, and failed. Why in all of this discussion does the subject of impetus just get ignored? The force supplied in Salo’s upending came from Salo himself. Just as in the Max Pax “hit” involving Chara, if you turn on the speed to take a run at opposing players in an icy rink filled with immovable objects, you can expect that sometimes the outcome will be less than advantageous. Heck, sometimes you even run into your own guys while speeding and not looking out for others. Just ask Crosby.

  4. Gordon says:

    I’m a Bruins fan and I thought the hit was a wee bit low for comfort. Also gotta disagree, I’ve only seen Salo for a few seasons, and I can tell you he’s not the charging type.

    I know you mean well but after watching Shanahan’s pretty good video explanation I can see the NHL was very justified in suspending Marchand. Hate to say it, but he deserved it.