Out of Position

A few games ago, Montreal Canadiens' center Scott Gomez got rammed into the boards from behind by Atlanta's Slava Kozlov. Then, about a week later, teammate Matt D'Agostini was victimized by a high hit from Chicago's Andrew Ladd.

And what reaction do we get from hockey broadcasters such as Benoit Brunet or Don Cherry? The player was out of position. His head was down. He turned his back to the play.

It almost seems like we expect players to never turn their backs and skate backwards so as to at once retrieve the puck and face opposing players.

Of course, Scott Gomez could benefit from being more careful and Matt D'Agostini should have had his head up. However, these little gaffes do not give carte blanche to opposition players to ram their adversaries head first into the board or jump a foot into the air to deliver a high check. Hockey is a physical game, that much is understood.

But we cannot continuously defer to the game's physical tradition to excuse these reckless hits. Such an attitude will only lead to more violent hits and serious injuries.

Case in point, last Friday Kitchener Rangers' player Ben Fanelli, who is only 16 years old, was devastated by a brutal hit from the Erie Otter's Mike Liambas. Fanelli was retrieving the puck behind his net while Liambas was coming on the forecheck at full speed. Fanelli turned ever so slightly and he was simply demolished by the hit and he stayed laying on the ice for several moments thereafter. Liambas never slowed down prior to delivering the check.

The point here is not to call into the question the character of Liambas, or Ladd or Kozlov, for that matter. In fact, Liambas was visibly shaken in the aftermath and he visited Fanelli at the hospital. But,we must soon realize that if we continue to promote an attitude that basically says, "If your out of position, it's your fault," we will continue to witness tragic scenes such as the one in Kitchener. And it is about time that media, fans and coaches realize that.