According to the Official NHL website, 50.1 Kneeing – Kneeing is the act of a player or goalkeeper leading with his knee and in some cases extending his leg outwards to make contact with his opponent.
In game 4 of the Washington Capitals vs the Pittsburgh Penguins, Alexander Ovechkin did just that. He viciously kneed defenceman Serge Gonchar. I can’t read Ovechkin’s mind to know if he intended to hurt Gonchar, but I can look at the replay and see that he clearly and deliberately kneed him. As you can see in the video above, not only does Ovechkin clearly not play the puck, he intentionally goes for the hit, lunges into him (almost jumping) and leading with his right knee makes contact with Gonchar’s knee.
Gonchar’s agent had this to say on the record …
”We now have Exhibit A of the extreme double standard that exists in the NHL’s approach to discipline. Alex clearly cuts back with his knee after missing his check with devastating results. But of course, because it’s Alex, its all Sergei’s fault,” Barry told TSN.
”It was a extremely negligent hit and if anyone else in this league does the same we all know they will face serious discipline,” Barry continued.
Bing-O. Nailed it.
Both the on-ice officials called the penalty and to their credit, they don’t have the advantage of hitting the pause button, replaying the incident over and over, and have to make their decision within seconds. Even still they somewhat made the right call (it should have been a 5-minute major instead of a 2-minute minor). So what about the NHL Director of Hockey Operation’s excuse, Colin Campbell, for not making the right call? He is the one who decides upon suspensions and/or fines. He doesn’t have to make decisions in real-time and can replay the event over and over. He has hours and in some cases days to make his decision as was this case with the Ovechkin hit. However … no suspension, no fine. Huh, I wonder why?
I’ll tell you why; the NHL is a business interested in making money. The way they make money is by ensuring their star players who draw in the fans and TV ratings stay on the ice. If star players like Ovechkin aren’t playing due to a suspension, then the few who do watch the sport probably won’t watch the games on TV (NBC or Versus). And if these guys aren’t playing, the ratings go down as do revenues. In a series showboating the NHL’s top 3 scorers (Crosby, Malkin and Ovechkin), you definitely want to make sure they are all on the ice. You can’t suspend Ovechkin because you’d loose viewers and instead of a 7-game series, you’d be looking at a 4-game series, which doesn’t generate nearly as much money. Thus, you have two sets of rules and a double-standard when it comes to star players. To support this money first theory, the league moved up the first game of the Stanley Cup Finals once Detroit knocked out the Bruins so they could keep the hype going about the first rematch in 25 years to generate more revenue.
What the NHL doesn’t get is that the reason people don’t watch hockey is because incidents like this leave potential fans totally confused on the rules or how the game is supposed to be played. For example, if we reverse the roles and someone like Matt Cooke makes that knee on knee hit against Ovechkin, Matt Cooke gets suspended. We’ve seen this type of inconsistency in the game of hockey for the passed two decades. The rules of hockey change daily, game by game, from team to team, and from player to player. This leaves potential fans (and long-time hockey fans) frustrated and confused.
Because the NHL has chosen to “enforce” the rules in this manner, it has pretty much deflated my already dwindling interest in the “game” of hockey. It’s just not a game anymore. Especially when an illegal hit like this takes out the top defenceman of the other team which puts them at a clear disadvantage for the rest of the series.
… and for Ovechkin, I don’t really care anymore how good he is. The fact he looked like a lost puppy dog acting totally oblivious as to why he was being assessed a penalty is comical, embarrassing to the league even. About as embarrassing as watching Major League Soccer and the acting those athletes display. I’m not even interested in watching him anymore. Simply don’t care.
I used to be a die-hard hockey fan, watching all the games I could with the NHL Center Ice Package. However, I find myself fast-forwarding through most of the games and only watching the goals, because it’s obvious there is a double-standard in officiating. It’s frustrating to see someone like Ovechkin not get punished for an “accidental knee” when 99% of the other players would been handed an easy 3+ game suspension. A great example being Matt Cooke who was suspended for 3-games due to a knee on knee collision on Zach Bogosian that was a lot less brutal.
It’s just not that much fun to watch a game that is governed by money and varying rules depending on how good you are or what team you play for. While watching NHL hockey, I find myself being frustrated and annoyed rather than interested and excited due to the complete inconsistencies in suspensions and penalties. Sort of leaves me feeling as though hockey is some sort of variation of WWE … but ironically, WWE has a much larger fan base.