Slava Kozlov doesn’t exactly fit the profile of an on-ice menace, but NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbell should treat him like one when looking at Kozlov’s cross-check from behind on Scott Gomez Tuesday night.
If the NHL is serious about curbing dangerous hits from behind, Campbell must suspend Kozlov and must have him sit out for a significant amount of time. Five games would be a nice place to start.
Gomez wasn’t even hurt on the play and, in fact, immediately turned around and began punching Kozlov in retribution. But that wasn’t the point.
The point is that as hard as you look, you may never find a more textbook example of a flagrant hit from behind on a vulnerable opponent than Kozlov’s cross-check on Gomez. There was absolutely no grey area on this one. Hit-from-behind apologists like to talk about players turning their backs on a hit, but that clearly was not the case here. Gomez was clearly going for a puck along the boards and Kozlov could see the numbers on his back, but that did not prevent Kozlov from pushing Gomez headfirst into the boards.
Was it a dirty play? We’ll give Kozlov the benefit of the doubt and say no. But was it a reckless one? You’d better believe it. Having that egregious disregard for your opponent is every bit as bad as having an intent to injure him.
And that’s why Campbell has to come down hard on Kozlov. You’re never going to find a more clear example of the kind of hit the NHL wants to take out of the game and Campbell will probably never have as good a chance to show the league means business.
CHAMPIONS LEAGUE, VERSION 2.0
The International Ice Hockey Federation is re-launching its Champions League next season without the help of Kontinental League president Alexander Medvedev.
The IIHF was forced to cancel the Champions League this season because Medvedev pulled out his investment in the project and is directing his efforts to forming a 54-team hockey league that would encompass all the hockey-playing countries in Europe.
But Hockey Europe, a union for the pro leagues from Sweden, Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Slovakia and Switzerland, was furious with the IIHF for suspending the league because its teams stood to be compensated for playing in the league this season. The sides came to an agreement for the teams that would have played in this year’s league to be compensated regardless of the cancellation.
What’s interesting about it is qualifying teams from the KHL will be allowed to participate. The thinking there is that just because Medvedev has bold (and unrealistic) plans for his European league, teams from the KHL should not be penalized for it. And there’s little doubt the integrity of the Champions League would be compromised if the champion of Russia’s best league were not included.
Ken Campbell, author of the book Habs Heroes, is a senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog will appear Wednesdays and Fridays and his column, Campbell's Cuts, appears Mondays.
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