Now, some folks may get mad at me for this article but so be it. First, my background is in the law. That is what I do for a living (please - no lawyer jokes). So, I want to judge the Hjalmarsson hit on Pominville as if we were in the courtroom. Obviously, the video footage and multiple angles from which the hit was filmed is the primary evidence in this case. I haven't figured out how to inbed the video in this article, but you can find it easily on YouTube.
One instruction that is given to juries in my personal injury cases is "a bad result does not equal negligence". In other words, sometimes stuff happens, even when we do everything right. And just because something bad or even terrible happens to someone, it does not equal negligence or a punishable action.
However, in the court of public opinion, it seems most want to jump on Hjalmarsson and call what he did dirty. And a two-game suspension to some is way too light. But if you watch the video and stop it immediately after the hit, forgetting what the result was, what is wrong with it? In realtime, Hjalmarsson was skating laterally in the direction of the puck and Pominville was standing along the boards virtually parallel to Hjalmarsson (these spellings of hockey names are quite the challenge). Granted, the puck techinically had not arrived on Pominville's stick when the hit happened. But that is only clearly apparent in slow motion. In real time, it's a "bang-bang" play as they call it in baseball. And I don't agree with most commentators who say Pominville's back was to Hjalmarsson. If you look closely, just before the hit, they are practically facing the same direction, shoulder to shoulder. (Good peripheral vision should have alerted Pominville that a hit was imminent) The force of the hit spins Pominville towards the glass and we know the rest of the story. But it wasn't a "dirty, rotten hit from behind" as the Buffalo announcer called it on the video. Pominville was looking down the wall towards the puck. He was not facing the glass.
At worst, Hjalmarsson's hit was a boarding or interference penalty (4:00 major). But it wasn't misconduct and it shouldn't be punishable by suspension. And most importantly, it should not be the catalyst for softening the game. With the increased speed of the game, bigger players, and extreme competition, these types of injuries are inevitable. They will never be eliminated. Just as in the NFL, there will always be concussions and severe neck injuries. It's the nature of rhe game. And those who are fortunate enough to be paid millions of dollars to play in the NHL also must realize the assumption of the risk (another legal concept) that is involved in playing a physical, high-speed game.
Hockey is a physical game and should always be a physical game. But I'm afraid if fans, commentators, writers, and league officials are allowing themselves to be influenced too much by the aftermath of a crunching hit, they will legislate physicality (is that even a real word?) right out of the game. And hockey will become nothing more than a track meet and very one-dimentional.
I'm all for making the game safer so long as it doesn't change the very nature of the game. But when the powers that be begin evaluating the propriety of certain acts on the ice based primarily on the outcome, it will be no time before the game is sissyfied and soft. And if that happens, you might as well replace the scoreboard with 9 judges from different countries giving 9.7 for technical and 9.8 for style points.
I feel really bad for Pominville. It's a horrible, scary injury. But my sympathy for him cannot cloud my judgment. And it shouldn't cloud yours.
P.S. I heard Ryan Miller on the NHL channel on XM radio yesterday whining and bitching about the dirty hit and how the press needs to put more pressure on the NHL to do the right thing....blah, blah, blah. Admittedly, he is a close friend of Pominville so I have to cut him a little slack here. BUT, I never liked Ryan Miller anyway and now I REALLy don't like him. He's always been pouty and uninspiring (granted he's a great goalie). But now he's shown himself to be a big baby, whining about how dirty the hit was and how these kind of hits need to stop. Hey Ryan! You're a GOALIE. It's easy for you to bitch and talk smack because you are protected by the rules. Grow a pair and stay out of this! Ok...I'm through venting. Go Stars tomorrow!! Will be there live and in person....can't wait!!