Monday, March 05, 2007

Finishing your check

Mirtle's post on Janssen's comments reminded me of this column by Ken Dryden that was in the Globe a few years ago:

Finishing your check" is so familiar a phrase it seems it must have been part of the original game. It wasn't. It means, as a checker, going after the puck carrier so that even if he makes a pass, you keep going and run into him, too late to stop the pass, but not too late to stop him from continuing up the ice with the play. This is allowed. Indeed, it's a strategy coaches insist upon. Yet if a player is hit before a pass gets to him, this is interference, and everyone agrees. Worse, "finishing your check" rewards the player who is too slow to reach the puck carrier in time, and penalizes the puck carrier who is quick enough to make the pass ahead of the checker. Worse, it puts in physical danger the puck carrier who has to deal with a checker coming at him at high speed, and the checker who has to deal with a puck carrier with his stick up to protect himself. Or worse, it encourages teammates of the puck carrier to take protection into their own hands and "obstruct." All this happened because coaches decided it was a good thing for players to go hard at a puck carrier, and referees got tired of reminding them it wasn't.

What would happen if "finishing your check" was understood as interference? If a checker faced the challenge of getting to the puck carrier in time, or risking a penalty? If a checker was made responsible for his speed, if he had to have it under control, able to go in fast enough to make the hit but slow enough to stop or veer off? To depend on the legality of personal choice, not on the illegality of "obstruction?"

We need to see hits from behind and hits to the head for what they really are. We need to see finishing a check for what it really is. These and other plays are not traditions of the game worthy of protection. They have brought danger to the game. They have hurt the game.

Link (can't read the entire column anymore)

It's the next step in the game. Remove obstruction and then remove post passing/shooting interference.

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