The Chicago Blackhawks – Vancouver Canucks rivalry intensified on Feb. 19th thanks to a controversial hit from Jannik Hansen to the back of Marian Hossa' head. The play, seen below, featured both men trying to grab a puck out of the air, only to have Hansen's elbow collide violently into Hossa's head.
Was the elbow from Hansen intentional? Should the NHL hand out a suspension or a fine for the incident? Perhaps most importantly, will this blow to the head sideline Hossa?
Just when you thought the Chicago – Vancouver rivalry had enough talking points, another major debate begins thanks to yet another controversial hit.
Let's examine the play as best we can. Both men are reaching for the puck. As Hansen extends his arm forward, his elbow swings out, a bit late, catching Hossa squarely in the noodle. As you might imagine, Chicago fans cried foul and Vancouver fans claimed it was just an accident.
It's almost impossible to judge intent in a situation like this. The play happened so quickly that it's difficult to prove that Hansen had any premeditated intent to hurt Hossa. However, while proving intent is nearly impossible, it's fairly easy to spot that Hansen's play was reckless and dangerous. He may have just been reacting to the puck flying his way, but his reactions didn't consider the player standing right next to him.
Puck Daddy raises the issue that Hansen's hit is similar to a play that happened last year between the two teams when Duncan Keith elbowed Daniel Sedin in the head.
Is Keith's hit similar to Hansen's? Yes, but it's not identical. The puck was behind Keith when he dished out his elbow, making it pretty clear he wasn't playing the puck but was instead going for the man. By comparison, you can make an argument that Hansen was playing the puck, he was just doing so in a reckless manner.
Keith's hit earned a five-game suspension for a dangerous play. Will Hansen receive something similar? If he does, it should be for a dangerous play and not for some planned assault. It's doubtful that it was premeditated and while it was unfortunate that this happened to Marian Hossa, that shouldn't play a factor in the ruling. The NHL needs to hand out its punishments based on the action and the history of the perpetrator, not based on the name of the victim or the extent of the injury.
As for Hossa's health, coach Joel Quenneville was quoted after the game saying:
"I saw him after the game. He seems OK, but we'll know more tomorrow."