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Changing the Language Around Hitting

Instead of using terms that put the onus on a player to prevent themselves from getting hit, the language of hockey should be changed to put the onus of the player throwing the hit to not make a dangerous play.

Why is this hit legal if the puck is out of the frame?
Why is this hit legal if the puck is out of the frame?
Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports

"He was admiring his pass." This is a phrase to describe a hit to a player that is unsuspecting and vulnerable that most likely causes injury. While puck watching is generally frowned upon, looking to see where the puck went should not be used as an excuse to hit a player who has released the puck. If you are hitting a player who has already released the puck, you are not hitting them for a hockey reason. Instead, you are hitting them to hurt them. That is not the object of the game. The object of the game is to have the puck and score more goals than the other team.

Hockey culture has become a culture of blaming the victim of bad or dangerous hits because the player receiving the hit was not braced for the hit or was admiring their pass. Breaking news people: if you do not have the puck, you are probably not expecting to be hit and therefore are probably not braced for a hit. In short; "admiring his pass" and "wasn't braced for the hit" are cop outs because they take all the blame off of the hitter for what may have been a bad hit and shift the blame onto the victim. Even though the player may have been doing the actions described above, the connotation is that because they were doing that action they got hurt.

It is stupid that there can be no rhetoric about a hit that is defending the hitter without blaming the victim. Sometimes bad hits happen, but by using language that blames the victim, it sounds like the player making the hit had no choice but to make the hit. There is always a choice though. A player can choose to not make a hit and pursue the puck. It is rarely mentioned that if a player is admiring their pass they did not have the puck when they were hit. If a player is admiring their pass, they may be eligible to be hit because the puck was released 0.4 seconds before the hit began, but if the fundamental purpose of hockey is to possess the puck so you can score more goals; hitting needs to change.

Admiring a pass should not be used as a condemnation of a player. If that is what they were doing at the time they were hit it means the puck was long gone and that the player has no business being hit anyways because they are looking at the puck that they had when they were eligible to be hit. Why does a player have to stop tracking the play (aka admiring their pass) so a guy can take a free run at them? Why should players not be able to read and react to a situation so some opponent can hit them into oblivion with no repercussions in the name of finishing their check or some other piece of hockey lexicon that means "attempt to injure a player because they had the puck and I could not get to them fast enough, but I hit them anyways."

No matter how the phrases are spun, there are certain phrases used to shift blame from the hitter to the receiver of the hit. Instead of feeling confident enough in hockey to maintain physical play if vulnerable players are no longer hit, people fill the need to blame those players for not protecting themselves. Shift the responsibility to the player making the hit. Force them to have the skill to hit a player with the puck and gain possession of the puck.

To change the culture of hitting in the NHL and hockey in general the excuses have to stop being doled out to defend the hitter if the puck is gone. If someone is "admiring their pass" the puck is gone. If someone is turning to see where the puck is, it is not their fault; they are making a play on the puck. There will always be injuries from hitting in hockey because that is the nature of a physical game. To expect players to only hit a player if they have the puck is not an impossible standard to hold players to; it is a difficult one.

To change the culture around hitting the lexicon needs to change from using phrases like "admiring his pass" and instead use phrases like "the puck was released". That is what has happened when a player is looking at their pass. The onus is not on them to make sure they are not hit anymore because the player no longer has the puck and is no longer a sensible target. Yes, there is a short period of time when players get hit after they release the puck, but they should not be because the basic reason for hitting a player is gone. Stop using terms like admiring his pass and understand that a player is rarely at fault for receiving a bad hit; there is more ability for the hitter to simply not make the hit than for a player to constantly be braced for impact after he releases the puck.