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THN.com Blog: Clean hitters shouldn’t be forced to fight

Tyler Sloan of the Washington Capitals had to drop the mitts with Rene Bourque after laying a clean hit on Daymond Langkow during an Oct. 21 game in Calgary. (Photo by Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images)

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Tyler Sloan of the Washington Capitals had to drop the mitts with Rene Bourque after laying a clean hit on Daymond Langkow during an Oct. 21 game in Calgary. (Photo by Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images)

Those who often lament the NHL becoming the “No Hitting League” – hey, I don’t see it either – should take guys like Rene Bourque and Alexandre Picard and slap them upside the head.

This is getting ridiculous. How do you expect to have hitting in the game when the player delivering a clean hit has to worry about being jumped and pummeled by some idiot who is hell-bent on revenge? No matter what you think about fighting in hockey, the increasing number of fights that come on the heels of clean hits are ridiculous.

After all, aren’t enforcers – and all players for that matter - supposed to live by “the code?” Nobody has ever fully explained “the code” to me, but I have to think part of it suggests these guys are all man enough to pick themselves up after a clean hit. These boneheads justify what they do by saying that you can’t allow guys to “take liberties” with your top players.

Whaaa? Exactly where in the NHL rulebook does it state that good players are immune from clean hits? You’re not supposed to let the other team score goals either, but you don’t start jumping on your opponents and beat them every time your team is scored on.

It happened twice in games Tuesday night. In the game between Calgary and Washington, Tyler Sloan of the Capitals laid Daymond Langkow out with a clean hit, then was attacked by Bourque of the Flames. How referees Chris Lee and Bill McCreary could possibly see fit not to call an aggressor penalty boggles the mind.

It also flies in the face of all those people who think the NHL should get rid of the instigator rule. Having it certainly didn’t stop Bourque from attacking Sloan and it didn’t prompt either referee to make the right call.

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Then in the Columbus-Vancouver game, Kevin Bieksa tattooed Nikita Filatov with a clean open-ice hit and Picard threw his gloves off. He then got the beating he deserved for being such a bonehead.

Last weekend when Kurt Sauer knocked Andrei Kostitsyn out of the lineup with a concussion, Tom Kostopoulos went after Sauer and fought him. The hit by Sauer was debatable, which prompted the fight. I get that, largely because players often feel the league can’t properly police the game and they must take matters into their own hands. They’re absolutely right about that. Sad, but true.

But after the game, Georges Laraque of the Canadiens said it doesn’t matter if a hit is “clean or dirty,” somebody has to take on Sauer in that situation.

The only problem is, that kind of attitude runs counter to everything that’s noble in hockey. Yes, it does matter if the hit is clean. It’s part of the game, just like scoring goals and killing penalties.

If NHL players are going to hold themselves up as the standard bearers of internal fortitude and honor, maybe they should start acting as though they really believe it.

Take the hit and move on.


Ken Campbell is a senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Wednesday and Fridays and his column, Campbell's Cuts, appears Mondays.

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