Radko Gudas (Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images)
Radko Gudas is one of the most feared open-ice hitters in the NHL and he showed why on Thursday night when he leveled Scottie Upshall of the Florida Panthers. It was not a dirty hit, not vicious or malicious, but it was very reckless.
It’s interesting how the same event, particularly in a game of contact that goes a hundred miles an hour, can be perceived so differently. Take the Radek Gudas hit on Scottie Upshall Thursday night as an example.
On its website, Rogers Sportsnet described the hit this way: “Florida’s Scottie Upshall gets caught with his head down as he accelerated into the arm of Lightning defenseman Radko Gudas.” Perhaps whoever wrote that really felt that way about the hit. Or perhaps this was the first test of Rogers’ new cozy relationship with the NHL and it failed miserably.
CBS Sports, which is not beholden to the NHL in any way, shape or form when it comes to being a broadcasting partner, described the hit with the following headline: “Radko Gudas levels Scottie Upshall with vicious elbow.”
It seems the NHL agrees with its broadcast partner on this one. While nothing was official as of late in the morning Friday, it was not expected Gudas would be subject to a hearing or face supplemental discipline for the hit.
Have a look and decide for yourself:
One of the key points that those who support this kind of hit will bring up is that Upshall had his head down. Yes, he did. Because he was trying to control the puck. I’ve never, ever understood why having your head down or looking up the ice to see where your pass went provided your opponents with a free pass to take your head off. If Upshall isn’t looking down at the puck while he’s trying to corral it, then he’s forced to try to control it while looking up the ice. He probably loses it, which results in a turnover and a prime scoring chance against the Panthers. That’s why he had his head down.
There are those who will argue that Gudas did not leave his skates, and he didn’t. Others have argued that Gudas kept his arm tucked in, which is, at best, inconclusive. It sure looks to me as though Gudas gets his elbow up at the last second. And there is no debate that the principle point of contact is Upshall’s head.
Some have speculated that the hit was in retaliation for Upshall squirting Gudas with a water bottle last season. Players have long memories and the Upshall squirt was certainly in bad form, but I find it hard to believe Gudas could have processed all of that in a split second and exacted his revenge on that play.
The hit was not dirty, it was not vicious. Gudas was not headhunting or deliberately trying to injure an opponent, but he was reckless. Gudas did not have any regard for an opponent who was in a vulnerable position. In many ways, it’s up to the NHL to decide whether it wants these kinds of hits in the game. We keep hearing about how the league wants to remove them, but then allows them to go unpenalized and without any supplementary discipline. If the league is fine with these kinds of hits, then carry on.
Gudas should be suspended long enough for him to grow another full beard, which would be four games. But it’s looking as though that probably won’t happen.