From the second No.17 in blue hit the ice, I knew it was coming.
The on-ice attack on Niklas Kronwall from Ryan Kesler's teammates.
The challenge from Kesler himself for Kronwall to fight.
The chirping after the game about how Kronwall "does this stuff all the time and needs to back it up."
The questioning of the legality of the hit, as it appeared obvious that Kronwall left his feet.
I expected all of this hoopla, over what, in the end, is simply one of the more electrifying aspects of the game of ice hockey—the body check.
Reports out of Detroit affirm that Kronwall will not be fined or suspended for this hit.
Thus, Brendan Shanahan, the NHL's head disciplinarian, has done a considerable thing for the game he loves, as his non-action essentially confirms that body checking is still allowed in NHL hockey.
The sad thing is, so many players apparently disagree with him.
Kesler, who certainly saw a few birdies around his head, but appeared no worse for wear immediately following the hit, clearly felt that Kronwall's actions, in and of themselves, were unwarranted and needed to be defended immediately by answering Kesler's bell.
Now, the fact that Kesler's bell was still ringing at the time notwithstanding, Kronwall did the only rational thing he could at the time—nothing.
Look, Niklas Kronwall is a superb open-ice hitter and has perfected this element of his game. The result of that perfection is that, now and again, someone is going to get plastered to the ice and not like it.
But does that alone warrant that Kronwall needs to back up his perfectly legal play with a fight?
Though few players can deliver hits as solidly as Kronwall, it is now a common thing to see a player or his teammates take umbrage with an opponent after being leveled by a clean, solid, perfectly legal hit.
Something that all hockey players are taught to incorporate into their game from about 10 years old on is now, apparently, something to take objection to.
Does the execution of a well-placed, legal body check now really warrant fisticuffs after the fact?
If it does, then perhaps Sidney Crosby should be prepared to drop the gloves after he scores on a particularly jaw-dropping back-hand shot.
Maybe Joe Thornton should get ready to duke it out after he deftly sets up a linemate with a gorgeous pass.
Perhaps the next time Tim Thomas pitches a shutout, he should tear off his mask and get ready to take on all comers.
Sound stupid? It should.
However, scoring goals, making passes, stopping shots and, yes, hitting opponents, are all essential, if not celebrated, elements of what it means to be a great hockey player.
The fact that there are those in the league who do it better than most does not mean they need to defend their talent with their fists (though, now that I think about it, using ones fists is also a handy skill refined by a select few).
No one wants to get hit the way Kesler did—that's completely understandable.
And as far as the whole "leaving his feet" thing, please. I know physics wasn't most people's strong suit in high school but, suffice it to say, when an object with sufficient mass is moving really fast and bumps into another object with sufficient mass, the resulting dispersing of energy tends to make things move upward.
The fact that Kronwall's skates are above the ice after he makes contact with Kesler is indicative only of the fact that, though he can deliver some sweet body checks, Kronwall cannot violate the laws of physics.
Hitting is part of hockey.
Unless it was a headshot, a late hit or an otherwise dirty play, something Kesler himself didn't even suggest after the game, it seems utterly stupid to expect a player who has delivered a fair, though devastating, hit to have to "back up" his play with a fight.
What Kesler should have done is dole out a similar hit on Kronwall or the next most available Red Wing.
What he actually did was act the fool and put his team down a man as a result.
Now, as it turns out, this didn't cost his team anything and actually resulted in a shorthanded goal whose legitimacy was as ridiculous as Kesler's taunting of Kronwall, but that's another matter.
The next time Ryan Kesler gets hit by an opponent, it would be nice to see him return the favor rather than expect a fight that will "back up" his opponent's actions.
Fighting after a big hit cheapens both the hit and fighting itself as it is applied in hockey.
Each have their place and should never be taken out of the game.
However, at this rate, it seems the players would rather take out the hitting and just keep the fighting.
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