An exciting 7-game series no doubt, but that’s overshadowed by a concern that I have. It’s not that it was only evident in this series, but the Game 6 “hit from behind” on Tim Connolly provides the perfect example to discuss.
I’m afraid we are dangerously cultivating a new breed of hockey people – officials, players, and fans – that have extremely questionable opinions on how this great game should be played, and how players should conduct themselves on the ice. We need to be careful or else this game will continue to head in what I feel is the wrong direction.
Let’s first be clear that Tim Connolly could never be accused of being a durable NHLer. Guys like him and David Booth, I don’t wish them any harm – but we’re always so quick to blame their opponents and characterize those who administer these hits as assailants. When do we stop and realize that some guys are just more “fragile” than others? I feel it’s part of a larger epidemic sweeping this sport that seems to say players are no longer responsible for protecting themselves.
Regarding the incident itself, I believe it was neither a hit, nor was it from behind. Richards actually grabs Connolly’s right arm to brace him first, and turn his body, so as notto hit him from behind. Then he gives him, as Ryan Miller even called it, “a push.” When was the last time you heard so many people so worked up about a “push” in a hockey game? It’s unfortunate that Connolly did not have the wherewithal to brace himself for the contact and prepare to battle for the puck, as players are taught from the moment they begin checking, but maybe we’re getting some clues as to the reasons for his fragility.
Professional hockey requires mental, physical and emotional strength, but also awareness. I’m not trying to be cold and heartless, but I contend that a guy like Connolly might lack the physical strength, mental toughness and awareness along the boards that’s incumbent upon every player to show up with when they go to battle in corners. And I feel the personal responsibility of each player to show up with that attitude has been lacking from professional hockey in recent years.
I’m not just a ruthless, bloodthirsty old time hockey curmudgeon. I’m just afraid that the more this continues, players will continue to take less and less responsibility for themselves in situations like this. I might blame it on the excessively long grind of the regular season that dulls a player’s mental edge, or the changes to the game simply creating a more talented, less tough breed of hockey player, or the leagues being “overprotective parents” of their skill players and no longer fostering an environment of personal responsibility. What do you think it is? Any one of those things? None of those things?
I think if things continue like this, we’re going to see more players getting hurt by not bearing down along the boards, or by admiring their passes in the open ice. It’s going to lead to more incidents like this one, more overreaction from the media and other folks connected to the game, and on and on and on. I just wonder when the cycle will ever end.