photo

Bob McKenzie weighs in on 'the code'; what modern day players can get away with

Tim Tucker   ·   13 janvier 2020
The topic that seems to be on everyone's mind this week when it comes to hockey is the situation between Edmonton's Zack Kassian and Calgary's Matthew Tkachuk. Tkachuk laid what many people thought was a questionable hit on Kassian in a game Saturday night and then refused to fight, leading to Kassian wailing on him anyway and getting suspended for two games for his efforts. TSN's Bob McKenzie recently appeared on a radio show to discuss the situation and what's expected in today's NHL. He had several interesting things to say.



"It’s the old Colby Armstrong, Raffi Torres, Death Valley hit," said McKenzie of the hit that caused Kassian to lose it on Tkachuk. "That is, you’ve got a guy coming out from behind the net to make a play in front of the net…you come down from your wing position when the player’s vulnerable and tied up with another player and focused on the puck, and you take him out."

"But, here’s the thing. Under the current set of rules of the National Hockey League, being a predator is entirely legal as long as you don’t hit him in the head. And as long as it’s not an elbow and as long as it’s not ridiculously late."

"There is malice is Matthew Tkachuk’s heart when he goes to do that, but nobody has a rule in the NHL against being malicious, so long as you don’t violate the specific rules as they are laid out," added McKenzie. "I get why people don’t like the hit, but I don’t get what the NHL or the referee are supposed to do in that situation because it’s so hard to police. There’s no rule against being vulnerable. If you have the puck, you’re eligible to be hit. I know the majority of players don’t like it."

McKenzie said Tkachuk's hits were targeted and he was targeting Kassian the entire game to get him to lose his head. Again, as long as the hits are legal, there's no rule against that. The issue, said McKenzie, is now Kassian will be looking to lay that exact same type of hit on Tkachuk when the two teams meet again on January 29th. He states Kassian has to be careful because if he doesn’t deliver it in the exact same way, he’s likely to deliver an illegal hit and be eligible for suspension once again. And it could very well be a longer suspension the next time around.

"We’re caught on the cusp of two worlds. Nobody wants hitting out of the game but you don’t want to promote a bare-fisted punch to someone’s head either," said McKenzie, citing head trauma and concussion issues. "You can’t go in a time machine back to the 70s, so no one knows where we go from here."

“In the 1970s, if you got challenged to a fight, you had to fight. If you didn’t, you would not have survived in the league. You would have been viewed as soft and your reputation would have been in tatters," McKenzie stated.

"There was the Tiger Williams school of diplomacy…he decided ‘you know what? If their guy’s running around trying to run our guys, I’m going to go after the best player on their team.’ Tiger Williams would go after Mike Bossy. He didn’t care, Because if the guys came roaring after him, he’s ready to go."

"That’s the kind of escalation you end up getting."

McKenzie adds it's quite likely that's what will end up happening should Tkachuk continue to level those kinds of hits and refuse to answer the bell. Players on the opposing teams will start targeting teammates like Johnny Gaudreau until those teammates convince Tkachuk to change his ways.

Former NHLer Mike Johnson also appeared on the radio show and here was his take on the situation:

"If you try to fight someone and they clearly don’t want to, you have to stop. You can’t just keep pummeling a guy, driving his head into the ice. No matter how angry you are, for whatever reason it is, once it has been clearly established he doesn’t want to go, you kind of have to stop."

There is no rule against not "answering the bell", "running away", "turtling" or whatever you want to call it. There is, however, a specific rule against what Kassian did and it is the reason why he got suspended; "The Instigator rule."
An instigator of an altercation shall be a player who by his actions or demeanor demonstrates any/some of the following criteria: distance traveled; gloves off first; first punch thrown; menacing attitude or posture; verbal instigation or threats; conduct in retaliation to a prior game (or season) incident; obvious retribution for a previous incident in the game or season.

A player who is deemed to be the instigator of an altercation shall be assessed an instigating minor penalty, a major for fighting and a ten minute misconduct.
You can view the full comments from McKenzie and Johnson by clicking here.
SURVEY
Which scenario would you prefer if the NHL season restart?
END OF REGULAR SEASON + PLAYOFFS
IMMEDIATELY PLAYOFFS WITH 16 TEAMS
IMMEDIATELY PLAYOFFS WITH MORE TEAMS
IT'S BETTER TO CANCEL THE SEASON
QUIZ ON TRADERUMOURS
image
What religion is based on "the four noble truths"?
BUDDHISM
CHRISTIANITY
ISLAM
JUDAISM
SURVEY
Which scenario would you prefer if the NHL season restart?
END OF REGULAR SEASON + PLAYOFFS
IMMEDIATELY PLAYOFFS WITH 16 TEAMS
IMMEDIATELY PLAYOFFS WITH MORE TEAMS
IT'S BETTER TO CANCEL THE SEASON