It seems like no Philadelphia Flyer can finish a check these days without earning a fine and a suspension.
The latest offender is Scott Hartnell, whose awkward hit on Andrew Alberts left the latter writhing on the ice.
The Flyers were losing 5-2 late in the second period when Alberts led with his head and body in playing a puck against the boards. Hartnell slowed down before the collision, but couldn't avoid doing damage.
Most players would have gone in with a stick or glove to retrieve the puck in the situation—but not Alberts. Hartnell said on the Flyers' website that it’s his style to finish his checks—but that any injury he caused to Alberts was purely accidental.
“If you look at the video and the time of the game, I wasn’t trying to hurt the guy,” Hartnell said. “I pulled up and just tried to rub into the guy, but his head was right on that dasher board there. It was unfortunate.”
The NHL handed Hartnell a two-game suspension. Other Flyers have been hit with stiffer with penalties.
Jesse Boulerice was suspended 25 games after breaking his stick on Ryan Kesler’s jaw with a high cross-check. Steve Downie was banned for 20 games after he went airborne at 60 MPH to slam an unsuspecting Dean McAmmond.
Both attacks were brutal, and the punishments were well deserved. But those two unfortunate plays have made Philadelphia an undeserving target of the league office.
The Flyers have always been known for playing aggressive hockey, and this year is no exception. But the fact is that many other teams deliver hard checks—and none of them are as scrutinized as the Flyers are.
Serious injuries are never welcome in the NHL, but sometimes it's the injured players themselves who create dangerous situations. In cases like those, the punishment should go to the victim.
For example, if a player were to see an opponent coming and turn his back to the hit, he should be fined for dangerous play.
It's a defenseman’s job to finish his check. Holding up only creates the potential for sneaky plays—and an unfair advantage for the opposition.
As I see it, a player who puts himself in a dangerous position is no less guilty than a player who dives to get a penalty call.
It’s inexcusable—and it shouldn't go in the NHL.