October 25, 2010

The Danger Zone

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.


J.J. from possibly Uzbekistan said...

I still like Selanne and, if I'm going to change my mind on anything prior I might have said about him being a whining bitch because it was said at the heat of the moment, I can understand that what he said was also heat of the moment. ... and now I have that song stuck in my head.

Anyway, I blame Carlyle more for the post-game comments. It's his team and they've taken on his attitude: We're just out there playing and everybody is out to get us. I hate Randy Carlyle.

The talk of the arguments back and forth reminds me of the talk about the Orpik knee-on-knee in preseason. Without video replay and three angles and super-slow-mo, we're not allowed to have opinions.

Dena said...

I don't think I care for Kronner being the Scientologist in your senario.

Graham said...

Awesome post.

You make an interesting point, but when it comes to sports, people always tend to look at things as extremely black and white when in fact there are 10,000 shades of gray associated with any incident. We as Wing fans defend Kronwall with gusto because by the letter of the rules, what he did was "ok". By stating that the hit was "legal", we justify it as a good hit (which for the record, I think it was). However, given the culture of the sporting world and its relation to head injuries, we are going to over analyze a hit that 25 years ago would have resulted in someone getting their "bell rung". To take it to the extreme, we remove our own morality/opinion from it because it was "our" player who did the hitting, and regardless of how we feel about head injuries, the old attitude of "suck it up, Nancy" applies when someone complains about being hit when it's legal. I'm curious to see what people's honest reactions would have been had this been a hit by Corey Perry on Pavel Datsyuk: would we be so quick to say it was a "good" hit had the tables been turned? Hard to know.

Andy said...

Selänne is not only whiney here, he has also become a diver. Remember game 7 against them in 09 when he went down and looked dead for two minutes on the ice to draw a penalty and then came on 10 seconds into the PP? The Ducks ruin character and they ruined his too.

Triple Deke Staff said...

Selänne is not only whiney here, he has also become a diver. Remember game 7 against them in 09 when he went down and looked dead for two minutes on the ice to draw a penalty and then came on 10 seconds into the PP? The Ducks ruin character and they ruined his too.

I do remember and still like him. Kirk Maltby was a connoisseur of embellishment and I'd feel like a hypocrite to dislike a guy solely for diving.

I try to give the guy at least some degree of leeway like J.J. and the Chief did today on the "whiney" front considering he was frustrated and absolutely smoked, his head was probably still ringing.

- Tyler

Guilherme Calciolari said...

I flunked on Law Philosophy in my first semester, so I don't think my opinion on "does legal means right" will count.

Anyway, it was a legal hit, but I didn't like it. We curse and swear and hate when it happens to us, so I didn't like it. Kronwall's hit on Havlat was much cleaner than this one.

AlphaOnOne said...

I think a big part of it for me is I don't think Kronwall went into that situation even looking for a big hit. He went in after the puck that had made it by Selanne, and was down reaching for the puck himself when he saw Selanne coming at him. Kronner stood up and hit him, thinking he was going to be hit, when in fact Selanne was trying to not hit him and that is what lead to him getting blasted. It was a defensive hit on Kronwall's part.

He actually played the puck right before the hit. I have a hard time saying that he had any intention to actually make that hit. He wasn't in that great a position to make a hit. And despite the fact that it was a spur of the moment activity it was still relatively clean.

cmk said...

I still think the hit was 'boarderline' and I KNOW we all would be screaming today if it was done to a Wing. I accept that. What I DON'T like is anyone from the Ducks--Selanne included--acting like this is something their team wouldn't dream of ever doing. It just leaves a very bad taste in the mouth to have the team that epitomizes dirty play come out and bitch about something so relatively minor--at least compared to what we've seen the Ducks do over the years.