At the 8:27 mark of the first period last night, the Kings Ethan Moreau violated Rule 41 of the NHL Rule Book. Rule 41 is for boarding. The rule book with its updated verbiage states:
“A boarding penalty shall be imposed on any player or goalkeeper who checks or pushes a defenseless opponent in such a manner that causes the opponent to hit or impact the boards violently in the boards. The severity of the penalty, based upon the impact with the boards, shall be at the discretion of the Referee.”
You can see the video here at The Score.
Now…take a look at that hit and then compare it to the boarding infraction by Kris Letang on Alexander Burmistrov.
You can see that in the case of Letang, he was actively going for the puck in play at the same time as Burmistrov. Letang’s penalty and suspension were totally legitimate. He could have minimized impact. If you look at the video of Moreau, He was not going after the puck, but simply laying a check on Kunitz. However, like Burmistrov, Kunitz’s back was turned and he was flat against the glass. He deliberately went after Kunitz with the intent to hit him. Moreau looked extremely displeased (mouthing obscenities when the whistle blew and he was sent to the sin bin), but come on.
The rules clearly state that you cannot hit a player into the boards when you are facing their numbers, which he was. Kunitz was in a vulnerable position and in my opinion, the hit was unnecessary at this point and could have been avoided. If you see numbers, you don’t hit, per the rules.
This is Moreau’s first boarding violation, so Vice President of Player Safety Brendan Shanahan applied a $2,500 fine. I don’t believe the fines are enough. Not when so many guys are being suspended for two or more games. Then there is the Matt Cooke standard of 17 games, which we have yet to see this year on anyone considered a repeat offender. You want consistency? Penalize repeat offenders for 17 games.
While I understand that Shanahan is new to the job and setting a new standard from Colin Campbell, whom he took over for, I’d like to see more consistency. Shanny has improved oversight with his videos and swift actions in responding with supplemental discipline for Rule 41 and Rule 48 (illegal checks to the head), but I still fail to see any sort of consistency, which is the largest problem.
If the league in intent on being serious about player safety, then be serious. Even though Moreau was a first time offender, $2500 isn’t that bad when he is making $600,000 a year. I think suspensions send a more clear message than a fine, especially if it is a fine this small and they player is clearing millions per season.
One other complaint, I don’t expect Shanahan to make videos when he is simply applying a fine, but perhaps at least post the video of the hit so that fans and teams alike can view what actions are unacceptable. My final suggestion for improvement is not to look at “whether or not the player was injured on the play.” You cannot punish an unintended (although sometimes there may be intent in a rare case) consequence of a broken rule because that result is going to vary from hit to hit. The point here is that with these types of reckless hits, the player could have been injured. That should be the primary factor in each case when examining a hit.