I was watching the Toronto-Montreal game last night on Hockey Night in Canada and even though I’m a Habs fan, I have to admit, it was kind of a snoozer. First game of the season, teams still sorting line-ups out and all. I guess if you’re a Leafs fan you can be excited about it, but it wasn’t exactly fun hockey to watch.
For me the best part of the game was Don Cherry on Coach’s Corner. Now – hold on – I know some of you can’t stand ’em, but my comment is not so much about HIM as what he was talking about. He was discussing the recent crackdown of discipline by Brendan Shanahan, the NHL’s new VP of Player Safety and bemoaning the fact that guys were not hitting as much or “missing hits on purpose” out of fear of suspension. I’m only getting to the good part though.
At this point he showed some old video of Scott Stevens – arguably one of the best open ice hitters the game has EVER seen. And was chiding Shanny with comments like “how many games would this hit get” and “what about this one Brendan?”
I’m a little disappointed Don. You should know better. Even a layman could see that the hits Shanny are suspending guys for now are NOTHING like Scotty’s hits. Stevens was a consumate hitter. He didn’t target the head. He didn’t lead with the elbow. Stevens hit you with his WHOLE BODY. You’ll see in these videos, his arms are almost always at his sides. This is indeed why his hits were always so spectacular and indeed, in some cases, more ferocious looking than many illegal hits. That was 6’0′, 200lbs of solid muscle he was throwing at you at considerable speed. Stevens had an uncanny knack for catching guys coming cross ice with their heads down.
Truly, his hits were things of beauty. He was a textbook hitter. I loved watching him play, if nothing for the sheer fact that you didn’t know when he might catch somebody lace-checking. It made my night.
I dare say, if more guys hit like Scotty, and hadn’t resorted to throwing elbows etc, Brendan would have never had to step into this job in the first place.