Hit On Nino Warrants Suspsension For Stars Defenseman

The Islanders won a hard fought 5-4 victory over the Dallas Stars on Saturday night, and it can be termed hard fought for many reasons; the Isles saw a three-goal lead get washed away to a tie in the second period; Rick DiPietro pulled his groin, forcing Al Montoya to start the third period; the Stars kept coming back on the score board; and last but not least, Nino Niederreiter left the game with a concussion after a devastating hit from Stars defenseman, Mark Fistric. 

Here is a video of the hit found on YouTube, courtesy of hockeyfightsdotcom:

Personally, I wasn't sure at first how I felt about the hit. It's easy to become defensive of the team you root for when you see a player go down like this and struggle to make his way off the ice; no one likes seeing anyone get hurt. But, as a blogger and a fan, I love the physical aspects of the game at the same time. Many times I disagree with so many of the rule changes and decisions made from those up top, simply because some of them have made the game, in my opinion, weaker. Don't even get me started on the topic of fighting. To avoid digression (or try to, at least), all I will say is that it has always been part of the game and always should be. Period.

But back to the hit.
 
Brendan Shananan, the head NHL disciplinarian, ruled that Fistric violated rule 42.1 for charging and leaving his feet in order to complete the check. As a result, Fistric has been suspended for three games and will forfeit $16,216.23 of his salary. 
 
At first, the hit to me seemed that Niederreiter made the classic rookie mistake of keeping his head down in the neutral zone. But upon further review, it does appear that Fistric left his feet. But this is where I question the NHL. Before all the changes and the era of the "New NHL," I understood that a player could not leave his feet for a check and that a player's feet could only be off the ice at impact. My assumption now is that this has changed because after watching the hit a few times, it only seems to me that Fistric left his feet once he actually made bodily contact with Niederreiter.
 
However, Niederreiter did get hit in the head with Fistric's shoulder. So maybe I am wrong in my opinion of the location of Fistric's feet on the play. But the bottom line is that Fistric made contact with Niederreiter's head, and no matter how you want to call it, that is something that has firmly been addressed since Shanahan took over; and it should be. Therefore, I agree with the suspension.
 
I will take it a step further and say that I do not always agree with suspensions of this nature. Had Fistric made shoulder to shoulder or shoulder to body contact and Niederreiter hit his head on the ice or the boards as a result of him having it down on the play, I would see no reason for Fistric to be suspended. Hockey has always been a game about keeping your head up. An opposing player catching another player with his head down, and keeping it clean, should not be held responsible for any potential injury sustained to the player receiving the hit. That's why all hockey fans are familiar with the phrase "he caught him with his head down!"
 
This is hockey. People get hurt every single night, some worse than others. It's not a game for everyone and the ones that play are aware of what they are subjecting themselves to every single night. That's why I believe it is the greatest game in the world. 
 
Like I said earlier, I knew I would digress with this post because this is a topic that easily agitates me. However, Shanahan's suspension serves justice for Nino Niederreiter. He may have been a rookie caught with his head down, but Fistric was irresponsible with the way he delivered the check based on the positioning of where his shoulder met Niederreiter's head. 
 
Niederreiter still has not dressed since that game as a result of the concussion. The rookie recently scored his first goal of the season against the Chicago Blackhawks the night before the Stars game after missing almost a month of playing time due to a groin injury from the pre-season. The concussion is now another setback in what was supposed to be his first full season in the NHL.
 
-Rob McGowan

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