The NHL set out to eliminate blindside hits over the summer by setting stricter rules and guidelines. These rules were designed to punish those who deliver career-altering hits to vulnerable players. However, when the time arrived to implement said rules, the NHL turned a blind eye once again.
Tuesday night, in a game that featured the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks and the Buffalo Sabres, Niklas Hjalmarsson delivered a blindside hit to a very vulnerable Jason Pominville.
During the play Pominville was set to receive a pass along the boards and was crushed from behind by the Hawks defender. Hjalmarsson could clearly see the play developing and was skating hard towards the Sabres forward when he delivered the hit.
Pominville suffered a concussion and had to be carried off the ice on a stretcher.
While the elbow of Hjalmarsson never made contact with Pominville's head, the hit was clearly from the blindside and resulted in a serious injury to the head of the Sabres player.
That said, it seems that the new rules in place would enforce a stiff punishment for Niklas to set the tone for future plays.
However, it came down today that the play only deserved a two-game suspension—a suspension that was also handed down to Islanders defencemen James Wisniewski for making an obscene gesture towards Rangers super-pest Sean Avery.
Is Hjalmarsson's suspension fair?
The question now should be asked, why was this not worthy of something severe?
The answer many are giving is that it is just a simple hockey play and is not deserving of a suspension at all. This is a very scary assumption, as blindside checks into the board should not constitute a "simple hockey play." They often result in serious injury and lasting effects that can ruin careers. But in the NHL today the league could care less what happens to the players.
Unfortunately for the league and its players, the NHL has set the bar very low and will likely continue with these meaningless suspensions until something very serious happens to a player. And it will.
The league has never cared about its athletes, and it never will. So until that fateful day comes, it is open season for dangerous hits.