Hockey is a rough sport, and sometimes people get hurt. This we can handle. It is when players intentionally look to injure their opponent that we can not.
Every year, we see a number of "cheap shots" and dirty hits that make viewers cringe. Many of these incidents are inevitable due to the competitiveness and high speed of the NHL, but many of them are inexcusable and downright ugly. If the average person were to commit similar acts on the street in public, they would most likely be charged with assault.
This year, we have seen several.
In this list are the NHL's 15 most criminal cheap shots of the 2011-2012 season to date.
On this play, the puck was dumped into the corner and chased down by Andrew Ference of the Boston Bruins. Ryan Mcdonough of the New York Rangers was the defenseman back and as he slowed down to retrieve the puck, Ference did not make an attempt to slow down and shoved Mcdonough into the boards.
What makes this play dirty is the fact that Ference makes no attempt to reduce his speed, and hits Mcdonough in his numbers with his head down.
Also, if you look closer as Ference makes contact with Mcdonough, it appears that Ference kicks Mcdonough's foot, throwing him off balance just before he pushed him into the boards. Ference stands by his words that it was unintentional.
Ference received a three-game suspension for this incident.
On this play, the puck is dumped into the corner and pursued by Matt Niskanen of the Pittsburgh Penguins (on the outside) and Brad Marchand of the Boston Bruins (on the inside). As Niskanen collects the puck and proceeds to skate behind the net with it, Marchand sweeps his leg behind Niskanen's, taking them both out and sending him falling to the ground.
Naskanen manages to brace himself before he lands on his side, but things could have turned out a lot worse—he could have landed on his head.
The slew foot committed by Marchand on this play is outside of the rules of hockey and could have resulted in serious injury.
He was assessed a minor penalty for tripping on the play and handed a $2,500 fine by the NHL, but no suspension was given.
On this play, Nathan Prosser of the Minnesota Wild makes a pass just within his blue line. As the pass is completed, Raffi Torres of the Phoenix Coyotes, skating full speed, launches himself into the air and makes contact with his shoulder to Prosser's head.
This was an illegal and reckless hit by Torress. Torres is also a repeat offender, so it can be assumed that there was some malicious intent behind the hit.
Torres received a two-game suspension for the incident.
On this play, the puck is dumped and chased by Daryl Boyce of the Toronto Maple Leafs. In pursuit of him is Jody Shelley of the Philadelphia Flyers. After Boyce has played the puck, Shelley continues his momentum towards him and makes no effort to slow down, stop or play the puck.
Instead, he lowered his shoulder and hit Boyce directly in the numbers, drilling him face-first into the boards.
This was a very dangerous play, and it was lucky that Boyce did not get seriously injured.
Shelley received a 10-game suspension (five preseason and five regular season) for this incident.
On this play, Patrick Kaleta of the Buffalo Sabres is involved in some play along the boards with two other teammates and two Philadelphia Flyers. At approximately seven seconds into the clip, Kaleta separates from Voracek, and then proceeds to thrust his head into Voracek's.
This was an extremely dangerous play, and it could have resulted in serious injury.
Kaleta was suspended four games for this incident.
*Note: This is not the first time that Kaleta has headbutted. He committed the same act in a game on October 13, 2010 against the New Jersey Devils, and again in a game on February 23, 2011 against the Atlanta Thrashers.
To see all three headbutts analyzed in Brendan Shanahan's suspension video of this most recent headbutt, click here.
On this play, Vincent Lecavalier of the Tampa Bay Lightning comes in to body check Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins—Malkin ducks and Lecavalier flies into the boards. Lecavalier takes exception to this and him and Malkin proceed to exchange pushes and shoves. They eventually fight, and a scrum forms along the glass. The referee gets in between the two, and this is when the play turns dirty and a cheap shot takes place.
As Malkin has his hands down and is no longer confrontational, Lecavalier throws a sucker punch to his jaw, catching him completely off guard.
This was a gutless play by Lecavalier and this sort of thing has no place in hockey.
For this play, Lecavalier received a two-minute differential and a 10-minute misconduct penalty, but no suspension was given.
On this play, at approximately 0:08 seconds into the clip, located at the far side of center ice, Rene Bourque of the Calgary Flames lifts his elbow and, with it, catches Nicklas Backstrom of the Washington Capitals with a not only a late hit, but an illegal hit to the head.
Bourque had no reason to do this—the puck had left Backstrom's stick and Borque was clearly aware that he had missed his initial attempt at a body check.
Bourque had malicious intent, and he received a five-game suspension due to the play.
On this play, the puck squirts out from the boards and Andrew Desjardins of the San Jose Sharks goes to collect it. At the same time, Dane Byers of the Columbus Blue Jackets comes from the side. In no effort to play the puck or body legally, Byers loads up and thrusts his shoulder into Desjardin's head.
This was a malicious hit, and not only was it illegal, it caught Desjardins completely off guard and in a defenseless position.
Byers received a three-game suspension for the play.
On this play, Gabriel Landeskog of the Colorado Avalanche is skating through the neutral zone with his head turned the other way. As a pass is made to him, Andy Sutton of the Edmonton Oilers already has him lined up and without any attempt to play the puck, launches himself and his elbow at Landeskog's head.
With the significant size difference between the two players, Sutton fully knew what he was doing and what kind of result his actions would have.
He received a five-game suspension because of this hit.
On this play, Daniel Carcillo of the Chicago Blackhawks dumps and chases the puck into the Edmonton Oilers' zone. He and Tom Gilbert skate side-by-side towards the puck in the corner. As they near the boards, Carcillo slows down and allows Gilbert to come in front of him, at which point he loads up and throws Gilbert into the boards from about five feet away.
This was a malicious hit by Carcillo, and as a player known around the league for being dirty, it's fair to say that it was no accident.
Carcillo received a seven-game suspension for this hit.
On this play, Ben Smith of the Chicago Blackhawks comes down the right wing with the puck. As he toe drags around Brendan Smith of the Detroit Red Wings, Brendan steps up and throws his shoulder into Ben's jaw.
Ben is immediately knocked unconscious.
This shoulder-to-the-head hit by Brendan Smith was malicious with the intent to injure, and it gave Ben Smith a concussion. It was the exact type of dirty hit that Brendan Shanahan and the NHL are trying to eliminate from the game.
Brendan Smith received an eight-game suspension (three preseason and five regular season) for this hit to the head.
In this play, Alex Edler of the Vancouver Canucks puts the puck through the goal crease and it ends up along the boards—Sami Salo pinches to try to get the puck as Brad Marchand of the Boston Bruins is coming from the side to get it. At around 0:16 seconds into the clip, both players arrive at the puck. Brad Marchard, rather than going for the puck, crouches, which sends Salo flying over Marchands back, landing him on his upper back/neck.
What makes this play dirty is how low Marchand got (right down to Salo's knees) and the fact that Marchand knew Salo was coming and there seemed to be a sense of premeditation.
Marchand was suspended five games for this incident.
On this play, Niklas Kronwall of the Detroit Red Wings is skating perpendicularly towards the boards to retrieve the puck. Chris Stewart of the St. Louis Blues is directly behind him, and as they are approximately nine feet away from the boards, Stewart shoves Kronwall in the back, sending him flying virtually face first into the boards.
This hit was extremely unsafe, and Kronwall was extremely lucky to escape the incident without serious injury.
Serious injury or not, this play could have turned out a lot worse—with a severe concussion or a broken neck for example.
Chris Stewart received a three-game suspension for the hit.
On this play, Cal Clutterbuck of the Minnesota Wild skates through the middle of the ice without the puck. As he does so, James Wisneiski of the Columbus Blue Jackets lifts his elbow and thrusts it into his head.
What makes this play "cheap" is the fact that it was a targeted hit to Clutterbuck's head. Clutterbuck did not have the puck and was in a vulnerable position, and it took place after the horn had sounded.
Wisneiski had no reason for committing this act, and he got what he had coming.
He was suspended for the remainder of the preseason, as well as eight regular season games. He also forfeited $536,585.36 in salary.
On this play, Jean-Francois Jacques of the Anaheim Ducks steps over the bench onto the ice and skates on a straight path directly towards Mike Duco of the Vancouver Canucks, who is all the way on the other side of the ice.
He then proceeds to grab Duco and throw a flurry of punches and continues to do so even when Duco is laying on the ice with his hands over his head. He had no intent on ever playing the puck during this shift.
This play has made No. 1 on this list because of Jacques' total lack of respect for his opponent and the game of hockey as a whole. This was not a hockey related play in any sense and, on this play, he acted more like a criminal than a hockey player.
He was suspended eight games (three preseason and five regular season) for the incident.