Two Bad Hits – Two Good Learning Opportunities

The last two Hawks games I got to watch, I’ve had the displeasure of seeing two hits I’d rather not ever see in the game.  The first was Alex Ovechkin hitting Brian Campbell from behind, the second was former Hawk, James Wisniewski with a head-shot to Brent Seabrook.  Both hits unfortunately led to injury.  Both plays were examples of hits the NHL (and USA Hockey & Hockey Canada) wants to see out of the game.  While many can argue over how many games each player deserves for their actions, I think these scenarios provide a great teaching opportunity for youth players.

Ovechkin on Campbell


In this particular instance, Ovechkin and Campbell were racing to a loose puck near the goal line. Campbell, the first one there, was in front of Ovechkin in a clearly vulnerable position.  Campbell was: 1) a dangerous distance from the wall 2) not facing Ovechkin 3) never had a chance to defend himself.  Ovechkin proceeded to shove Campbell from behind.  As bad as the injury sustained by Campbell was (collar bone and ribs – I think), it could have been a lot worse.  In that split second, it wouldn’t have been impossible for him to have gone into the wall head first.  Players need to understand the dangerousness of checking from behind – this single moment in lapse of judgement could have led to something far worse than it did.  If the player isn’t facing you, don’t check or push him/her.

Wisniewski on Seabrook

This hit has a bit more ill-intent behind it than Ovechkin’s did.  In this case, the check was clearly a retaliation for a border-line hit to the Duck’s Corey Perry earlier in the shift.  Wisniewski’s hit had several different aspects to it:

1) Interference – Seabrook did not have the puck, nor was he the last one to touch it.  The only intent of the check was to retaliate.
2) Charging – Wisniewski is a defenseman.  He came in from the tops of the circles with his only intention to make a hit.  When he finally came barreling in, he left his feet.
3) Head Contact –  The hit was high to begin with, then he followed through with his hands to the face of Seabrook (see freeze-frame below) which drove his head into the wall.

Head Contact

All these aspects of the hit make it a dirty one. Coaches must teach players the basics of proper checking technique, but moreover need to emphasize from a young-age that the only reason to check is to separate the player from the puck.

Hopefully players and coaches alike can use these two negative instances and take positive lessons from them.

4 Replies to “Two Bad Hits – Two Good Learning Opportunities”

  1. The biggest difference between the two hits is, that although Ovechkin’s hit could have resulted in a more serious injury, the Wisniewski hit was done with intent to injure, thus deserving the higher suspension that was given. Neither hit should be allowed, but if a player’s sole intention of an act is to deliberately hurt another player without regard to the rules he/she should be suspended for a long time.

  2. Hit #1 – Ovechkin’s hit was in no way a hit to injure I think he was trying to keep seperation between himself & Campbell. Having said this I do not condone this type of hit ( Push ). I di however learn one very important lesson that as a coach will take back to my futrue players & that is from what I could see Campbell looked like after he reversed the puck he eased up just slightly which gave even more of an advantage to Ovechkin’s hit. Players of all ages when you are playing and in situations like this never let up on your skating stride like Campbell did . Stay focused and finish strong. You may not agree with me but Brian Campbell let up after he reversed the puck and it cost him possibly the whole season playoffs included.

    Hit #2 Wisnewski’s hit was just plain awful and in my eyes should be suspended for the remainder of the season playoffs icluded. There is no reason for cheap shots like this. Thats why the big boys are around. I am a traditional type of fan and still believe there is a place for inforcers. I also say in the NHL take the plastic shoulder pads, Elbow pads out of the game. Heck what would happen if you (HOPE THIS NEVER HAPENS)removed helmuts. Players would really have to look out for themselves. How does a guy like Bertuzi fro example play with nothing but two old schools shoulder pad attached to his pants suspenders ? Players nowadys are way to padded and it makes them to brave.

    Opinion of mine – bring back contact (bodychecking) along the boards for all ages of hockey. Muscle memory from when you first start out will keep the players better for contact and help keep thereheads up. Keep open ice hitting out of the game until PeeWee maybe Bantam aged kids. Looking forward to some comments on this.

  3. Ted – I agree, there’s no place in the game for revenge hits.

    Rick – My main objection to the hit (Ovechkin’s) is that it was clearly a hit from behind. Campbell may have relaxed a little, but it still needs to be the player’s responsibility to not make contact in these instances. If you see numbers, you can’t make contact.

  4. 100 % agree with you on this Kevin. Just pointing out that you cannot relax on the ice in those situations. I think Ovie should of gotten more than 2 games and that Wiser should have been the season. I despise plays like wiser which was premeditated and plain old viscous. Hits like Ovies in the heat of the moment are very hard to let up on but the players need to learn how and when to hit just like your comments stated.

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