On The Bear Hug Rule


I try not to comment too much on the NHL on this site, but the rule changes they bring have a profound impact on the game itself, so it is quite a relevant topic.  I know safety is a huge concern at all levels of hockey, but I can't honestly fathom how this rule is being considered.

"The most flagellant situation for me is one where a forward makes a hard pivot and comes right back into the track of the defenseman. He's gotta finish that hit and when he does sometimes that player is propelled like a billiard ball," said Burke.

"Give the defenseman the chance to go in there with him [and] avoid a potentially catastrophic injury."

Brian Burke

So, to begin with, we're blaming forwards for putting themselves in vulnerable positions to draw a penalty, claiming the defensemen have no time to stop the hit from behind from occuring.  Yet somehow, a defenseman is going to have time to change his action and put his arms around the forward and put him softly into the boards in a preventative situation?  This is, well, lunacy.  Either the defenseman has time to react to the new situation or he doesn't.  If he doesn't, the dangerous hit will occur.  If he does, then he can stop the hit from happening, and if he refuses to stop, he's at fault and should be given a major penalty for boarding or hitting from behind. 

It's ridiculous to think that this rule is necessary if that is the case.  If he can't stop to prevent the hit, but he can move his arms from a checking motion to a hugging one, something is seriously wrong with this player's co-ordination skills.  I mean, I could understand if this was me we're talking about, but we're talking professionals and high level junior prospects here. 

This rule just seems illogical, and the premise behind it, that the game has seen an increase in serious injury since the last major tweaking of the rules in 2005, is just based on hearsay without any actual numbers presented to back it up (Please, SHOW ME SOME NUMBERS).  If the NHL wants to make huge changes to the sport, they should be consulting with the greater hockey community a lot more. 

Still, if the defenseman only feels he has a choice to hit the player from behind or bear hug him, I hope he chooses to bear hug him.  That's a two minute minor.  The other option should be an automatic five minute major and a game misconduct, with possible disciplinary action taken.  If the d-man truly has time to make a logical decision (when they often claim they don't and blame the forward for putting themselves in danger), that would be the right move to make.  But such a scenario should realistically never come into play. 

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