How Brooks Orpik Got Mike Milbury's Panties in a Bunch by @ChicksDigHockey




There are five things hockey fans need to know that some sports commentators haven't learned.

1.            Even clean hits can result in injury. All contact sports have rules predicated on safely making contact with the other player with the goal in mind of stopping them. We tend to fall into the trap of thinking bodychecking is as easy as pushing the B button. It's actually one of the toughest skills to master at the NHL level, and that's a major reason we see so many NHLers do it poorly and end up with Shanabans: Sometimes they don't think they're doing anything risky or wrong. I’m not naive enough to think that guys don’t intentionally hurt another player but I also know players are often as surprised as the crowd is outraged by the outcome of a hit. 

2.            The principles of science do apply to hockey. For example, an open ice hit, shoulder to shoulder by one player moving faster than the other player is going to cause the slower player to suffer more effects. NHL athletes are bigger and stronger than they were 20 yrs ago. That, combined with high skating velocities, makes the risks of sustaining an injury higher than before.


 The location of the hit matters. A hit delivered a fraction of an inch higher or lower matters when you’re talking rotational acceleration and linear acceleration. The hit may be by definition clean, but science might catch up to the victim. Who can watch hockey without being reminded of Newton’s Second law: F = ma. The vector sum of the forces F on an object is equal to the mass m of that object multiplied by the acceleration vector a of the object…..right?

3.            The referees will only see so much. Fans have a perfect view of all that goes on during the game thanks to multiple camera angles, slowing the speed of the play and even stopping the action. The on ice officials don’t have that benefit. Unless a goal is involved, they must base their call on what was visible to them.

4.            Even the greatest players have off nights. there are countless variables in one shift that can make an NHL player appear to be unable to do what he can do in better conditions. Body positioning, momentary fatigue from sprinting, pain, opponents' interference -- remember, they want to use all of their power to prevent the attempt, all play a role in not being 100%. Basically, of all the possible explanations, the least likely is that the player suddenly sucks, suddenly decided to tick you off, or suddenly decided that he no longer cares. 

5.            Hindsight is 20/20. Fans want to legislate punishment and guilt after the fact and based on emotion or the outcome of the hit. The incident that inspired this statement was the Brooks Orpik hit on Jonathan Toews Sunday night that put Mike Milbury’s panties in a bunch.  As Mark Lazerus wrote: 


“It wasn't even a dirty hit — the NHL won’t have a disciplinary hearing for Orpik. It was a dangerous hit, and a devastating hit, but it wasn't dirty. Orpik didn't leave his feet until after contact was made, and the principal point of contact was not Toews’ head.”


The hit was hard but had Toews been able to shake it off and skate away, the outrage over that very hit would have died with the end of the game.


Toews is a beloved player. When he couldn’t pick up his stick after the play, Milbury lit into Orpik. He characterized him as “a guy who operates on a predatory level”. He further ASS-ertained that Orpik should have fought when challenged because, “There's a history of what happens to Brooks Orpik when somebody challenges him, and that happened in Boston.”  That’s right, Milbury, anytime a defenseman lays a clean hit that unfortunately results in injury, he deserves to be concussed. (Let’s not forget: no penalty to Orpik, 15-game suspension for Shawn Thornton) 




If the NHL has defined what a clean hit is and someone levels one but a player gets hurt, it's still a clean hit. Emotion doesn't turn it into a bad hit.
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