I can hear it already…

I’m Brendan Shanahan of the National Hockey League’s Department of Player Safety. Wednesday night in Chicago, an incident occurred during a game between the Blackhawks and the Vancouver Canucks. At 13:36 of the first period, Chicago defenceman Duncan Keith delivered an elbow to the head of Vancouver forward Daniel Sedin. As the video shows…

The circumstances surrounding read like a suspension check list. Not only did Sedin not have the puck at the time of the hit, he never touched the puck and had no reason to expect a hit. The puck deflects off of the boards and bounces high over Sedin and Keith into the Chicago zone. Keith pays no attention to the puck and goes straight at Sedin. His elbow was fully extended at the time of the hit and only made contact with Sedin’s head, with no attempt at a full body check. The only thing that one could argue is that at least it wasn’t a blind side hit: the elbow hit Sedin directly in the front of the head, aka. the face.

Many will point out, however, that there are extenuating circumstances for Keith’s elbow, as it came shortly after he was hit in the head by none other than Daniel Sedin. Shortly after throwing a breakout pass up the boards, Keith was caught admiring his pass by Sedin, whose shoulder comes up and catches Keith on the chin. It will be up to Shanahan whether Sedin will also face supplementary discipline for his hit. It’s possible that he will decide the hit is similar to the full body checks that were deemed legal at the start of the season, though Sedin’s hit is a bit later than those examples.

Whether Sedin is suspended or not, Blackhawks fans eager for some Old Testament eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth will say that this is why Keith went after Sedin’s head.

Providing a reason for illegal actions doesn’t excuse those actions, however. Instead, it provides motive, which makes it easier to convict, rather than more difficult. Fans arguing that Keith was just getting retribution are actually condemning him as guilty. Wisely, Keith pled innocence both for himself and for Sedin.

Keith said after the game he didn’t know if Sedin landed a hard, high check on him prior to his elbow.

“No. I don’t think so,” Keith said. “I think on that play – and I haven’t seen the replay so it’s tough for me to comment too much on it – but I’m not trying to hurt anybody. I hope he’s OK. He’s one of their best players so he needs to be on the ice.

“The puck was up in the air from what I remember and I’m trying to close my gap and have a good gap on him. Right at the last second, he moves forward. I don’t know where the puck is. It’s fast. Like I said, I hope he’s OK. I need to see the replay. I need to see it again.”

None of this is too surprising. If he admits that he remembers getting hit by Daniel earlier in the period, it makes his own elbow look worse. Instead, he paints a picture of a hit that happened quickly and was unintentional. That’s key, as intent will likely play a large role in how long a suspension he receives.

Shane Doan received a three-game suspension for an elbow to the head just over an hour after Keith’s hit, and one of the parts that stood out for me was that Doan was judged to have “instinctively” extended his elbow, as he was caught between the puck and and the player. It seems that Keith is trying to give a similar explanation for his own elbow, saying that he was just closing the gap between himself and Sedin and reacted as Sedin moved forward “at the last second.”

Bill Smith, Getty Images

That explanation doesn’t match the visual record, however. Unlike Doan, Keith wasn’t beat on the play and didn’t seem to need to catch a piece of Sedin to prevent him from skating past. Instead, it appeared like there was every opportunity to throw a regular body check, though it still would have been interference. It doesn’t look like instinct; it looks like intent.

It’s difficult to say how many games Keith will receive as compared to Doan, as the two elbows are defined more by their differences than their similarities. While both players received only 2-minute minors, everything else is different. Sedin skated one shift after the hit before leaving the game, while Benn was not injured. Benn had just played the puck, while Sedin never touched it. Keith’s elbow was preceded by a previous incident between the two players, while Doan’s was empty of that type of context.

One of the considerations for Doan’s elbow was his status as a repeat offender, having previously been suspended for 3 games in 2010 and fined just 5 days ago. Keith, however, has no previous record. Indeed, I’ve generally thought of Keith as a pretty clean player. He does, however, have a very similar incident to his elbow on Sedin in his curriculum vitae.

Keith had a run-in with Matt Cooke back in 2009, when Cooke wasn’t the paragon of virtue that he is today. Early in the first period between the Blackhawks and Penguins on December 5th, Cooke blindsided Keith with a high hit that spun the defender to the ice. Not long after, Keith did likewise to Cooke and received a 2-minute interference minor as Cooke had not touched the puck.

Though clearly a blindside hit to the head, such hits were not as in-focus as they are now, and Keith received no subsequent discipline. Neither did Cooke, for that matter. So, while this incident does not give Keith “repeat offender” status, it does perhaps indicate that he is not above looking for revenge.

The bigger story here might be that Daniel Sedin, of all people, managed to hit Duncan Keith, who is one of the more slippery defencemen in the league. Neither of these players seem to be the type to throw high hits to the head, but a rivalry as heated as the one between the Blackhawks and Canucks brings out both the best and worst in these two teams.

Comments (27)

  1. This suspension has to be at least 6 games.. This is the case and point example of what needs to be out of the game… Look at the outcome of the bourque head shot on Backstrom… The latter hasn’t played since!!! and its a damn shame. If D. Sedin is gone long-term, the Canucks chances of a long playoff run are drastically hindered. However, it should be noted that regardless of injury… this crap is totally unnecessary.

  2. Thanks for finding that headshot on Cooke video. Remembered that from before, but wondered if any media people would. Think this should be five in the same sense of Marchand’s clipping and retalitory/intent to injure.

  3. Canucks continually get called out for not manning up by other teams. Then someone like Keith pulls this kind of crap and runs away from guys like Burrows, Bieksa and Cooke when they try to get at him. The Rat-Hawks should look in the mirror before the lights get turned on on them.

  4. The Canucks calling anyone else “cheap” is pretty hypocrtical. Biggest whiners and cheap shot artists in the game. Taste of your own medicine imo.

    • Whoever is calling the Canucks cheapshots are bullshitting! The Canucks haven’t received a single suspension this entire year. You r simply saying that what keith did is okay. U wud be “overreacting” as u call it if I guys like toews or kane went down like that.

      • Not being suspended does not mean the Canucks have not cheapshotted anyone. Have you seen what Shanny has been doing lately? Kesler’s knee on knee with Kronwall, Kesler’s lowbridge on Clutterbuck, Burrows’ biting and hair pulling, Torres’ headshot on Seabrook…..none were suspended, doesn’t mean they weren’t all dirty and cheap.

    • Every team does cheap stuff. If you justify it by saying it’s just a “taste of your own medicine,” then hockey players will be killing each other out there.

      If Keith really wanted to retaliate the high, late hit by Sedin earlier, he could’ve just given Sedin a good cheap shot during a scrum (like what Burrows did with the knees). Nothing too dangerous, so it’s OK.

      But to lead with your elbow while skating? The impact is way too strong and dangerous. It’s even harder than an elbow in MMA because you’re flying in there on skates and you’re catching players by surprise.

      Keith really screwed up this time. His emotions got the better of him.

    • You’re the kind of “fan” and I use the term losely,
      that thinks all the between and after the whistle
      stuff by Boston in the SCF last year, was OK.
      Grab some sense bud, roughing is roughing
      and if you think Daniel Sedin and been cruising
      around makin dirty hits for the last 10 seasons
      you’re really need to have your head examined.
      The check on Keith want even one second late
      nor was it a high it. Man, some people are still
      in the dark ages!

  5. Biased article..

    Every team can be called cheap and has those incidents, the fact that you claim its a taste of our medicine says alot about you.

    I did not agree with the rome hit on horton in the finals, and I dont agree with this one.

  6. And if anyone including the canucks did this, I would be pissed for a gutless cheap dangerous elbow.

  7. And the only reason i bring up the rome hit is because that was our last suspension.

  8. Any player who commits a suspendable act and injures someone should be made to sit out of hockey for as long as it takes his victim to heal. If you put someone out of hockey for life, you are banned for life. The league needs to stop talking about zero tolerance for headshots and start doing it. If the consequences of playing dirty are painfully high (but we can all agree that real consequences are needed) the penalty must be as high to the assailant as they are to the victim. Elbowing someone in the face hurts, unless you have elbow pads on, then you don’t feel a thing while you try to remove someone from conciousness. Elbows to the head are cowardly, you’d never see people throwing elbows if they didn’t wear elbow pads to protect themselves. Also, have you ever thought of what would have happened if the Hawks were playing the Bruins? Keith would have been running for his life to get off the ice, what a brave move to pull against the big bad Canucks!!

    PS. Watch the replays, Sedin’s elbow was pinned to his hip. Not saying I liked his hit either, but at least it resembles hockey.

    Play safe kiddies!!

    • No way in hell should the NHL institute penalties based on injuries on a game per game basis.

      If you hit a 22 year old Lindros he pops back up and keeps playing but if you hit a 33 year old Lindros his career is over….exact same hit, same intention, same level of cheap. The player who hits the 33 yr old is suspended for life? You should think these things out a little better before posting.

  9. Look, the Keith elbow was bad. But about 2 minutes earlier, Sedin drilled Keith in the head in the corner. That hit was just as bad. Both guys should be suspended. Maybe you can make a case Keith gets a slightly longer suspension because of intent, but both guys will be receiving a call from Mr. Shanahan.

    • I don’t buy this justification for Keith’s elbow. How far back in the chain of events should we go?. If Daniel hit Keith earlier maybe Keith hit Daniel at some earlier time and Daniel was retaliating for that hit. And so on, and so on. If you go down that road you can’t just stop at some arbitrary point and say that that was the beginning of the sequence. If an elbow to the head causes an injury it should be reviewed, not every interaction leading up to it.

    • Sedin’s hit was perfectly clean. Elbow was down, shoulder to the head was incidental. To say they are equally dirty is absolutely ridiculous.

  10. haters gunna hate … you people are wining about the Canucks (hypocrites)

  11. If it weren’t for the Keith elbow, and subsequent attempts of the TSN Blackhawks fanboy crew to justify it, people wouldn’t even have noticed the Daniel check on Keith. Once again the double standard that applies to the Sedins doesn’t fail to make me laugh. Stick up for yourself, or try to play with some grit, and they are called out for ‘losing their cool’ or in this case ‘playing dirty’. Ignore the crap directed at them (Marchand rabbit punches in the final) and they are criticized for not sticking up for themselves.

    And yeah, the assertation of ‘Greg’ that the two hits were equally dirty is pretty laughable.

  12. This has nothing to do with the canucks or the blackhawks ,but everything to do with the total lack of respect for someone elses physical well being.Just look at the hit keith delivered to cook and then compare that to the cheapshot he delivered to sedin.Hes (keith)obviously has some anger management issues and needs to resolve them.Wether it was him or burrows,guys like this need a serious time out

  13. disclaimer: I’m a Blackhawks homer, but I think the guy who said Keith should get six games is about right, maybe even a extra game in the playoffs. We just can’t tolerate retaliation done in that matter. Next time drop the mitts and pummel the swede.

    Sedin shouldn’t get a call from Shannahan, but Burrows should. He clearly kneed Keith in the second period. I’m sorry but kneeing a guy in ice hockey is pure bullshit. He he should get a game or two.

  14. Iam a Canucks fan and i totally agree with mike ,but i do know some of the hawks have verbally bashed the Sedin twins in interviews with media aka Bolland. So i feel he and probly a few others on the team share his view of the twins.From that it shows a total lack of respect towards the twins and what they have done while in the league.Maybe they don’t hard nose hockey ,but they are skilled players ,well mannered at all times ,never showboat after a goal like they are the greatest players alive. VERY MODEST AND HUMBLE ,JUST LIKE OTHER COUNTRIES AROUND THE WORLD VIEW US CANADIANS . Maybe there lack of grit at times does hold them back at times , but as a true hockey fan i choose to respect them for who they are on and off the ice .

  15. All you Canuck haters should take a moment and smell your own dung. Every team has one or more guys that deliver cheap shots, whine or what ever you’re complaining about.
    Hawk fans, your baby Kane did beat up a cab driver in Buffalo. Yep that’s showing class.
    Hockey fans, why not take points away from teams when a player does something stupid. That will make them start thinking!

  16. What a joke….a soft cowrd player gets an elbow that would not have bothered any normal man. The girl gets it and folds….what a crock of crap! He just perfectly suited to play in that city! They are all spinless cowards! If this clown didn’t constansty turn away from hits and hid he would be used to getting hit by now. Canucks fans, there is a reason your team is the most hated in the NHL….its no because they are good its because the are soft whining babies! Every hit the boo and look for a call. They are out in the first round and Van will burn again! Hopefully to the ground this time!

    • Seriously, just STFU. THere is no reason why our team is the most hated in the NHL, except for the myths that the media pushes to ignorant pussy fans like you who are too stupid to separate fact from fiction. You and your 70 year old mom probably are glass pounders, too, amirite? I love the internet. Love it, except for the voice it gives every fucking moron, like you.

    • Ya gotta love, to laugh, at these key board tough guys that think they know hockey. The coward out there was Keith with his cheap shot elbow after which he tried to dance away from any Canuck who wanted to fight him. Stand up like a man Keith and fight after what you did.

  17. OMG! To even mention that Vancouver players were willing to fight after the hit is laughable. WTF is Alex Burrows gonna do? He’s one of several reasons the majority of NHL player dislike Vancouver. He dives, he yaps, he exagerates and he lies. The hit on Sedin was totally illegal and Keith has got 5 games for it. I’m willing to bet that he’s back before Keith is. Both Sedins (among many others on Vancouver) play to draw penaltys. They deliberatly leave themselves open to hits and cheap shots. This is a stupid way to draw penalties and trust me the refs know that’s what they do. When you play the game and go out looking to the refs after every hit they stop calling them. It doesn’t help that Vancouver fans (when not rioting or screaming thought the glass) boo every non call. It also doesn’t hep that AV pisses and moans after every game about non calls….Bottomline is this. Play like everyone on the ice is trying to hammer you because they are. Don’t set yoursleves up for cheap shots and hit for a penalty call. Toughen up! They all complain to much. At a press conferance in Dallas yesterday AV was compraining about the reffing that night. He went on to complain about refing in game 6 of the finals over 75 games ago!!! Get over it! His teaching and big mouth are going to ensure they never get calls. I had picked this team to be in the finals but after seeing them lately they will bow out in the first round. Hopefully Canucks fans will learn from there mistakes and not torch the city again for there teams lack of toughness. However Sedin being out will now give them all a reason fo fail.

  18. BTW- What do Vancouver fans feel would have been appropriate if 5 games inst enough? I can assure you that a hit like this on any other “star” player would have went 2 ways.

    1) The player would have never been hit because he would have seen it coming and avoided the hit, otherwise absorb the hit witch wasn’t very hard although it was cheap and high.
    2) If for some odd reason said player didn’t see the hit coming this cheapshot would have earned Keith 10+ games. With that being said D Sedin will never get the calls gritty tough players like Crosby, Perry, Iginla, toews….would get because its obvious the is soft and playes to avoid contact.

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