The Hit Heard ’Round Detroit was neither dirty nor deliberately vicious. But Justin Abdelkader was needlessly reckless sizing up Anaheim’s Toni Lydman for a thunderous check in Game 3. The two-game suspension the NHL leveled Sunday certainly feels like an appropriate punishment, consistent with the league’s dilemma in mixing old school with the new reality. Abdelkader isn’t a cheap-shot artist. He’s purposely bruising. That’s what the Red Wings pay him to do. That’s why he’s playing on the top line. And he doesn’t have a reputation of stretching the boundaries of physical legality beyond their limitations. But like the NFL, the NHL is a collision sport worried about the legal ramifications of career head trauma and its aftermath. It would rather err on the side of overreaction. “I watched the hit again today,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said before Abdelkader’s NHL hearing. “And, holy mackerel, I don’t know what you’re going to get suspended for.” Defenseman Niklas Kronwall, someone who appreciates delivering a good hit, said that he didn’t plan on changing his game despite the new emphasis on monitoring checks that result in possible head injuries. But Kronwall admitted that you couldn’t help but think about it. The NHL wants players thinking in a game that’s often instinctive, reacting in split seconds. But it creates confusion and ambiguity in the enforcement of the rules when the league desires protecting its athletes — and its own financial interests — while also protecting the inherent physicality of the sport.
Justin Abdelkader's punishment fits the times, if not the crime
Detroit Free Press | May 6