Barry Rozner is Way Off on This One


By Brady Stiff

Barry Rozner is a fantastic columnist for the Daily Herald.  If you don’t get the Herald, you should make it a point to check out his columns online.

His column today, though, is one that I have a problem with.

Of course, the buzz today in Chicago is about last night’s Blackhawks game, and the hit that former Hawk James ‘Wiz’ Wisniewski put on Brent Seabook in the second period.  Here’s a video of the hit.

Early in the video, you see Seabrook lay a hit on Cory Perry.  It would be easy to argue that it should be a penalty, but the bottom line is Seabrook didn’t deserve what he got.  No NHL player deserves what Seabrook got.

Brent Seabrook lays on the ice after being hit by Anaheim's James Wisniewski

Now Rozner’s point is that the NHL is trying to take physical play out of the game.  He says that a lot of players don’t know how to deliver a clean hit because the game has changed so much.  Maybe he’s right, maybe not.

I’m just a young pup, and haven’t been watching hockey for that long.  But I know enough hockey to know that if a team can be effectively physical, you’ve got an advantage over the other team.  That’s exactly how the Blackhawks have been beaten this year.  I know enough hockey to know that big checks are a part of the game, and can really swing the momentum in your favor. But there’s a difference between effectively physical and recklessly physical.

He thinks the NHL’s intent to look at head hits in the near future will make the game even softer than he thinks it already is.

Softer?  No.  Safer?  Yes.

The athletes these days are the best they’ve ever been.  They’re bigger, faster, stronger, and the games haven’t changed much. Hockey is an inherently dangerous sport.  That being said, there’s a right way and a wrong way to go about being physical.

I’m all about a good solid hip check on the guy with the puck.  I’m all for guys dropping the gloves to go at it for a couple minutes.

I don’t want to watch guys go headhunting on a guy without the puck, much like James Wisniewski did last night.

Blackhawks’ head coach Joel Quenneville was right on when he said “There are certain hits in the game that are tolerable if you have the puck. But if you hit a guy without the puck you can kill a guy.”

I’m not sure which was worse…Wisniewski’s hit or the Anaheim announcers’ implication that Seabrook was “selling” his injury. Tell me, how exactly do you sell getting knocked out cold?

Look at the NFL.  They’re having their own problems with head hits and concussions.  In some cases, there’s not much you can do to make games like football and hockey safer.  They’re contact sports, of which injuries are an unfortunate part.  But those who are playing the game should know the difference between legal and illegal hits.

James Wisniewski apparently doesn’t.  He claims innocence.  Or is it ignorance?

“I didn’t do anything wrong,” Wisniewski added. “The result of what happened isn’t good, but there wasn’t anything wrong that I did,” he said.

Is that so James?  You’re telling me that Seabrook had the puck, and you didn’t leave your feet?  There is no way you could convince me of that.

He also said that he and Seabrook are good friends.  Yeah, right.  And I’m a closet White Sox fan

All Wisniewski got for the hit was a two minute charging penalty.  I think the refs got this one wrong as well.  I think it should have been a boarding penalty, based on NHL rules.  It would have been up to the officials to judge whether or not the hit warranted a more severe penalty, like a match penalty or game misconduct.  I would have gone with the latter, because the hit involved a potential injury to Seabrook’s head (concussion).

I have no problem with Wisniewski wanting to stand up for his guy.  But there’s a right way to do it.  Line Seabrook up for an open ice hit, as long as it’s clean.  Do your best to get Seabrook to dance with you.  It’s not right to go after a guy’s head.

So, to Barry Rozner, your point is off.  The game would not become softer with a harsher penalty on hits to the head.  It would be safer.  We’ve seen some pretty dangerous hits.  We haven’t seen a guy get killed on the ice yet, but it could happen.

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