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On Cogliano’s Hit and Protecting All NHL Players

Every player in the NHL deserves the same protection by the league and the Department of Player Safety, regardless of your allegiances

Anaheim Ducks v Los Angeles Kings

As many of you are probably already aware, Anaheim Ducks winger Andrew Cogliano was issued a 2-game suspension this morning for a hit he placed on Adrian Kempe in last night’s game against the Los Angeles Kings. Below is the official video explaining the decision by the NHL’s Department of Player Safety:

In the video, the hit by Cogliano is broken down into two parts: the interference and the principal point of contact. Both of these parts are extremely important for understanding the reasoning behind the suspension.

First, the play is clearly interference. Per NHL rules, players without the puck are ineligible to be hit. However, as explained in the video, there is a brief window allowed by the rules for players to finish checks immediately after the puck is moved. The play by Cogliano in no way fits within this window. Not only does Cogliano have enough time after the puck is moved to take three solid steps as well as load up for the hit, but Kempe also travels from just a few feet from center ice to well within the Anaheim offensive zone between the time of passing the puck and the time he was hit by Cogliano.

The second important part of this play is the principal point of contact for the hit. When Cogliano finally makes contact with Kempe on the play, the hit is very high. The principal point of contact is Cogliano’s left shoulder and the head of Kempe. This is an illegal hit, plain as day. Late hit or not, you CANNOT hit a player in this fashion, as exemplified by this hit on Jakob Silfverberg by Raffi Torres in 2015 that earned Torres a 41-game suspension:

While I’m in no way arguing that these situations are identical given Cogliano’s lack of disciplinary history, the hit is still highly illegal under NHL rules and is extremely unsafe. Explicit intent to injure or no, Andrew’s hit was bad.

And now we come to the crux of this article: the suspension and the community’s reaction to it. As explained in the Department of Player Safety video, the combination of blatant interference and clear contact with the head of Kempe resulted in the NHL issuing a 2-game suspension to Cogliano. This suspension will end the Anaheim forward’s consecutive-games-played streak at 830. Many are up in arms over this suspension for a multitude of reasons and I’d like to tackle them all.

First of all, I have seen many people actually talking about how this shouldn’t happen considering Cogliano’s ironman streak and how his record should somehow factor into this suspension decision. Let me be clear, as a fan of the Ducks and Cogliano, I in no way want to see this streak end. However, that streak should in no way whatsoever factor into whether or not Cogliano deserves a suspension. This is an irresponsible and insulting point to make in arguing against this suspension.

Second of all, people have brought up Cogliano’s lack of suspension history as an argument against his suspension this time around. Here is where I have much less of an argument. Yes, Cogliano has no disciplinary history since debuting in the NHL 11 years ago and that actually should (and consistently does) factor into disciplinary decisions by the NHL. However, when I look at that hit over and over again, I personally can’t argue with the suspension regardless of his history. On this point I will agree to disagree with the public.

And finally, the most prevalent argument I have seen among Ducks fans, and the most troubling in my opinion, is the “well how could you suspend for this play and not that play” argument. Now let me get something out of the way from the start: The NHL Department of Player Safety is not perfect. They make mistakes just like we all do, and they should strive to be better. Indeed, they have been extremely inconsistent in their punishments for the last several years and deserve to be criticized as such. We as fans should always hold them accountable to protect the player’s of the NHL. But just because they don’t suspend one player for a play that we believe is clearly suspension-worthy doesn’t mean other players should get away with it.

Every time a play like this happens, we should all be outraged and demand discipline, regardless of if other players got caught doing the same thing (and regardless of the jersey they wear). I saw many people calling out a hit by Doughty on Rakell during last night’s game and questioning why there wasn’t a suspension in that case. Good! Question that! Tweet at the DPS and ask for clarification. But don’t do it because of the Cogliano suspension or because it was a Duck. Do it because it is an NHL player who deserves to be protected just as much as any other player in this league.

In the end, I believe the NHL and the Department of Player Safety made the right call here. I believe the hit was suspension-worthy, and, while I am sad to see Cogliano’s ironman streak end, I believe he has no one to blame but himself.

Also, to Adam Brady who tweeted this quoting the Department of Player Safety announcement:

I would simply like some clarification as to what you think is terrible here. I think it’s pretty plain as day that the hit by Cogliano was highly illegal and suspension-worthy. If you are simply saying it’s terrible that his streak is ending I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt. However, as a representative of the Ducks and Southern California hockey, I find it highly irresponsible of you to be so explicitly biased and blind to a pretty clear cut decision here (if that is in fact what you are doing). I look forward to your response.

-JC McDonough, Managing Editor of , @AC_Y4SO