Rupp Hit Hurts Oshie - Sparks Standard "Dirty" Play Debate

When I first sat down at my computer and saw the headline, “Oshie takes brutal hit from Rupp,” I immediately thought that I was about to see something really dirty. Instead, I saw a routine play that resulted in injury. One that has been happening more and more as players become faster, more skilled and better protected. As a victim to a career ending head injury myself, I tend to be a little sensitive to the subject. In 2010, while chasing a puck behind the net in a game vs Wheeling, I was hit from behind, head first into the boards. I was unconscious for 20 minutes and never played another hockey game again. That being said I like to judge each “dirty” head shot on their own merits. I have to say that in my humble opinion, I don’t think that the Rupp hit last night was as dirty as it seems to be portrayed by the media. Not to say that it was clean either. After all, the player is ultimately responsible for what happens to others when you attempt to engage someone. First, let’s look at the play. Oshie is wheeling around the offensive zone with the puck and creating confusion on the defense. Rupp, a defense-minded forward, times his positioning so that he can defend his point man and also seal off the middle, if necessary. He does a good job of deceiving Oshie, making him think that he has more time. Oshie, who is being defended by Marco Scandella, thinks that Rupp will remain stationary and guard his point, drops his head to make sure he has the puck. With one hand on his stick and one hand shielding Scandella, he drives through the seemingly vacant lane in middle of the ice. Rupp, a longtime NHL veteran has him right where he wants him. He leaves his position and engages Oshie with the objective being to hit him, eliminate the threat and create a turnover. Certainly, you want to stun the opposing player with a tough body check making him think twice about being so creative in the offensive zone, but you are not trying to injure. The word “hurt” should be thought of by the fan as a word that players use to describe their actions. If you are known as a player who “hurts” when they hit, you are a force on the ice and players will know you are there. Feeling the oncoming presence of a defender, Oshie attempted to react, but it was too late to avoid the outcome - he was on the proverbial train tracks as they say. His last second evasive move was where the play got dangerous. Rupp had already committed to the hit and his momentum was tracking Oshie. When Oshie moves, he leaves his chest and jaw exposed which is exactly what Rupp connects with, knocking Oshie to the ice with a jolting head shot. I think that Rupp will be getting suspended and fined heavily for his actions. With the state of hockey and concussions as they are, he certainly should be punished. I just don’t think that the hit was as malicious as some others we have seen recently. What used to be a major part of Hockey, clearly needs to be removed. No one wants to see players seriously injured from a play that can be eliminated. But we should also look at some other things we can do to try and lower the amount of serious head trauma. I would argue that a key reason there are so many head injuries is the invinvicble feeling players have being so well protected with equipment. Helmets, facemasks, plastic capped shoulder and elbow pads all contribute to the player feeling like RoboCop on skates. That, combined with the speed and strength of the new age athlete, has opened the game to a whole new kind of injury. Hopefully Oshie makes a quick recovery and the league can do something to lower the rate of head injuries in the league. In the meantime, Rupp will just have to bear the consequences.