Writing Saturday's post within an hour of the game ending, and having only seen the Kronwall/Selanne hit as it happened live, I made no mention of the game's biggest talking point.
Also, at that time I had not heard about Selanne or Randy Carlyle's comments, which were equally talk-worthy. Selanne said, "That guy is dangerous out there," and I assume with a little bit of prodding from Corey Perry, added,"One of these days somebody's going to get him." Here is a re-enactment:
When asked about those comments -- and that weird bite that Selanne has apparently started punctuating his sentences with -- Mike Babcock said, "Probably had some peanut butter in his mouth. And I think it was a hockey play. I think one of the comments was, 'Kronner is dangerous.’ He is. That’s why we like him.”
First of all, of the 150 greatest quotes in Detroit Red Wings history, I think Babs has about 139 of them. He's the opposite of almost every hockey quote you can find; he's smart, sharp, and wickedly sarcastic. I'll be entirely disappointed if he doesn't come out with an auto-biography the nanosecond he retires.
More importantly (and, sadly, more seriously .... dammit), I spent most the night and early morning after the game contemplating the legality, and, probably more so, the humanity of it all. I know, right? 2010 sucks. It isn't possible for one of these collisions to occur -- in any contact sport -- in today's world without everybody discussing and analyzing the incident from every conceivable angle. Additionally, I can't be the only one who upon hearing "conceivable angle" thinks about somebody having intercourse with a camera.
I mean, it would almost be strange nowadays for somebody to have a Red Wings blog + enough free time + be definitely, no doubt about it, for sure un-retired and not write about this situation. I'm asking honestly here: was it even close to being like this 15 years ago? Shit... 5 years ago? I seriously don't remember. When Scott Stevens nearly murdered Slava Kozlov in the 1995 Cup Finals, I only remember the hit itself, as well as feeling for the first time in my life, "That was incredibly disturbing. I'd like to die now." That sort of thing was applauded, and the biggest takeaway was "Koz needs to have his head up next time," instead of the now routine exploration of everything under the Violence In Sports umbrella.
And I'm not even saying that's a bad thing. It's probably a good idea to think critically about high speed head-on collisions between two human beings. In the case of this open ice hit, what kept running through my mind was the justification of it, and whether or not any of it makes any logical sense. From most of the Wings fans, you see the discussions of the "legal hit" checklist: feet on ground? Check. Shoulder? Check. Avoided whatever charging is? (Usually said with a shoulder shrug): Uh, check, probably. So we're all good, right? Selanne was turned into sawdust but there's nothing to argue about because Kronner's skates were on the ground. He shouldered him, and Teemu should have had his head up knowing Nik Kronwall was standing on the blue line.
Doesn't that seem a little odd, though? If Kronner's skates were a mere inch off the ground, the NHL rule book would deem that as charging and he'd be completely vilified. (For something that actually hurts opponents less, J.J. posted earlier today.) But if he's on the ground at the point of impact, only one inch lower, regardless if he's propelling himself upward in a leaping motion, he's absolved from any criticism? Am I the only one that finds that logic a little flawed?
I understand that the nature of the rule is to prevent players from doing stuff like this, as to not completely turn the sport into the wrestling. But the way we as fans argue this stuff is getting stranger and stranger to me. "Your guy did A, B and C so therefore he's a villainous little bitch who can't play by the rules. But I mean -- if he you tweak it just slightly and he did D, E and F and our guy was summarily destroyed anyway, then we have no argument." That's how every Internet fight reads to me now. We're not talking about people getting outraged over Kronwall swinging his stick like a baseball bat into Selanne's face; we're talking about a very minute difference in the placement of his skates.
And as for Selanne's view on the hit.... I want to make clear that I liked Teemu before this game and I'll like him after; one of my biggest pet peeves about fans is taking one comment from a guy and making a blanket judgment of him for the rest of eternity. So I'm not going to pile on too much for what he said. However, threatening Kronner with that "he's going to get his" before even looking at a replay is not good at all. He claimed he felt elbow when in reality it was nothing but a shoulder. He was pissed and frustrated from losing, being shellacked in open ice and probably the realization that he's playing this season in vein on a bad team -- and now his comments have thrown even more fuel on the fire. It's obviously not out of the realm of possibility that a Duck will try to get retribution for this the next time these teams meet while crossing the line in doing so.
I don't have answers, and I barely even have functioning opinions for that matter, on what needs to change. I'm trying to talk it all out, and admittedly, I'm very confused on what to think. The line between legal and dirty seems so incredibly thin to me, when the results are largely the same. Head trauma is head trauma. The only way to justify it, seemingly, is to say that this is what these guys signed up for. That the brunt of the rules have been in place for generations so they know what they're getting themselves into. That it's their risk.
In the meantime I'll try to form my less-than-concrete opinions of what is clean or dirty on the shoddy protection of the NHL law, which isn't exactly great at setting precedents. So it's likely that I'll be sorting this out for a long while.