Given all the hubbub on Sunday, it was easy (especially in Canada) to miss the news that Washington Capitals defenceman Mike Green received a three-game suspension for an elbow to the head of Florida Panthers forward Michael Frolik. It was a rotten game for Green; aside from the suspension he also took a knee-on-knee hit and had to be helped off the ice.
There’s a lot of interesting bits to this particular incident; first off, the league didn’t trot out any of its usual nonsense about the player in question having no record, and secondly the fact that Green’s a very high profile player and that didn’t get him out of punishment either.
Still, neither of those items were the most interesting part of this story; the most interesting part was the reaction of Green’s teammate Brooks Laich:
Obviously we don’t want to lose Greenie. I don’t know if he was going play anyway after that knee-on-knee collision. But at some point you have to take control of the game and protect the players. You see what happened in junior hockey [the recent Patrice Cormier incident in the QMJHL]. At some point you have to make a statement where there’s not a gray area. You can’t hit to the head. It’s black or white. You hit to the head you’re going to get suspended. We don’t want to lose Greenie, but at the same time I think it’s important that our league enforces punishment for hits to the head.
Laich is exactly right in his comments. Generally the teammates and coach of the suspended player circle the wagons (and many of Green’s teammates did) and that makes Laich’s comments exceptional as well as accurate. I only hope the players association pushes this point of view, as the league is wildly inconsistent and shows no sustained desire to eliminate these sort of hits.
Footage of the hit, for those who missed it: