A couple of years back the Erie Otters were the first team to come to town after Mike Liambis' horrific hit on Ben Fanelli and our crew was charged with the responsibility of breaking down the hit and talking about it. It was and still is tough footage to watch, but our crew did an admirable job of analyzing the hit.
Fast forward to last Saturday, and ironically with Fanelli's Rangers in town, another controversial hit reared its ugly head. On Friday Tom Kuhnackl felled Ryan Murphy with a jarring, shocking- pick your adjective check. Certainly this hit was suspendable, and the concern goes to young Ryan Murphy, a player with a bright NHL future. Kuhnackl, not the sort of the player, to deliver a hit of this ilk and viciousness, also suffered a knee injury on the play. No one wins here. We watched the footage at least 10 times in the truck and broke it down step by step during the first intermission. A summary of our thoughts follows here:
- Kuhackle, according to colour man Ed Burkholder, was following his fore check path. Ed, as a scout and former coach is well versed in the nuances of the game
- Murphy had lost sight of the puck, but it was still in his vicinity
- Murphy, skating low to the ground to a horrific amount of impact to the head
-Kuhanckl's arms were to his side, but he made no effort to slow up
-Kuhnackl did not leave his feet at the point of contact, but the aftermath had him leaving his feet
The hit is here and the footage is courtesy of our good friends at Rogers TV who do a wonderful job covering OHL hockey.
In the end we all felt that reckless was the best way to describe the hit rather than malicious. While the intent was not there there was a level of recklessness in the hit. Kuhnackl could have slowed up, but did not and by not taking care to protect Murphy, his opposition, a suspension was imminent. I don't like to play the public game of determining length and quite frankly loathe those who try to play commissioner. I also intensely dislike those who choose to publicize and promote the "David Branch is ruining our game" message. You may not agree with the assessment of David Branch and his staff in all the decisions, but to say that he is ruining the game is beyond comprehension.
The other debateable point here is that Murphy, while clearly shaken up, returned to the ice for a couple of shifts, adding an assist on a power play goal. He was finally shut down in the 3rd. Logical thinking dictates that when you have a player in that amount of peril, perhaps it is not in the best interest of player safety to return to the ice. Hopefully that part of the equation will be up for discussion so that protocol can either be revised or be put in place for situations like this
The bottom line here is that there are no winners. I feel immensely bad for Ryan Murphy, one of the OHL's bright lights and shining stars and I hope his recovery is speedy. For Tom Kuhnackl and the Ice Dogs, the hope here is that his physical recovery is speedy and that they accept the decision with dignity.