It didn’t occur to me that anyone would find fault with the Ian Laperriere hit on Nicklas Lidstrom until a colleague sent me a video feed of the incident with the subject line: Foul or fair?
The shoulder-to-shoulder collision looked, to me, so clean and so, well, hockey, I just assumed the colleague was inviting me to lunch. Foul (chicken, I suppose) or fair (food fair at the mall perhaps?).
I accepted, but no lunch was forthcoming. He was suggesting perhaps the hit was dirty. Not committing to it, but throwing the topic up for discussion.
I scoffed at the idea any hockey fan would have a problem with it because, let’s face it, hockey is a contact sport. On this play Feb. 18, Colorado’s Laperriere and Detroit’s Lidstrom were approaching a loose puck at a 90-degree angle. Both players saw each other, bent their legs, lowered their shoulders and collided.
Lidstrom looked to angle away at the last instant and took the brunt of the impact. Laperriere’s momentum carried Lidstrom into the boards where he was visibly shaken up and left the game with an injured knee. No penalty. No suspension. No reason for it.
Fabulous hit I thought. Laperriere didn’t leave his feet or get too low to take out Lidstrom’s knees or go in with a leading elbow. The fact Laperriere’s elbow then extended out from his body is simply a result of the undeniable laws of physics. The bodies bouncing off one another was the reaction to an action, with the arm in the middle acting as the fulcrum.
The fact one staffer in the office called it dirty, vicious and worthy of suspension is, to me, appalling.
I don’t buy his argument that this was a headshot and the league should do everything in its power to deal with headshots. Nor do I agree that a player the caliber of Lidstrom should have to worry about this headhunting when he’s trying to play a skill game.
Had Laperriere circled rather than hit or tried to poke check one of the game’s craftiest players, I’d expect him to be reprimanded by coach Joel Quenneville during the next stoppage.
Naturally, Laperriere had to defend himself against the nearest tough guy, Detroit’s Aaron Downey, which unfortunately has to happen under hockey’s unwritten code.
But Laperriere shouldn’t have to defend himself against overly sensitive fans or media who clearly have some serious issues with this wonderful game.
Brian Costello is The Hockey News’s senior special editions editor and a regular contributor to THN.com. You can read his Top 10 list on Wednesdays and his blog each weekend.
For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.
From now until the trade deadline (Feb. 26) The Hockey News is having a subscription sale. Click HERE to get $10 off our regular subscription price.