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Where's This Stuff In "The Code?"

A couple of weeks ago, Columbus Blue Jackets blueliner Ole-Kristian Tollefsen caught Leafs forward Jason Blake skating out of his defensive zone with his head down and made him pay for his mistake, one that a guy who has been in the League as long as Blake has (or for any amount of time, for that matter) should never have made.

Tollefsen absolutely crushed Blake, and did so well within the rules of the game (hockey is, after all, a contact sport), and yet the reaction it elicited from Blake's teammates was predictable: someone had to fight the nasty Norweigian, and pronto (unfortunately for Alexei Ponikarovsky, he was the guy left to challenge the much more seasoned fighter):

There are a couple of ways to look at these events, and I'm not entirely sure they're mutually exclusive. The first is to praise "Poni" for defending his still-writhing teammate. The second is to ask, "When the hell did clean hits start commanding a response like that?"

The latter was my reaction at the time (as you can see in the comments here), and was my reaction last night when Rene Bourque jumped Tyler Sloan after Sloan lit up Daymond Langkow:

I wasn't going to harp on it any more, but I caught Ken Campbell's post on the topic this afternoon, and thought it worth passing along. Campbell writes:
This is getting ridiculous. How do you expect to have hitting in the game when the player delivering a clean hit has to worry about being jumped and pummeled by some idiot who is hell-bent on revenge? No matter what you think about fighting in hockey, the increasing number of fights that come on the heels of clean hits are ridiculous.

After all, aren’t enforcers – and all players for that matter - supposed to live by "the code?" Nobody has ever fully explained "the code" to me, but I have to think part of it suggests these guys are all man enough to pick themselves up after a clean hit. These boneheads justify what they do by saying that you can’t allow guys to "take liberties" with your top players.

Whaaa? Exactly where in the NHL rulebook does it state that good players are immune from clean hits? You’re not supposed to let the other team score goals either, but you don’t start jumping on your opponents and beat them every time your team is scored on.
Spot on, Kenny Boy (and killer use of "whaaa?").

Now, in fairness, the situation hasn't yet arisen (knock wood) where it's one of "my guys" lying in a heap on the ice, and I'm sure that my initial reaction will be to want the head of the thug who lays out Alex Semin on a pike, even if the hit was clean. But at the same time, the overwhelming thought in my head will be "he should have had his head up - he knows better."

Campbell's piece is definitely worth a read, and I'll let him wrap this post up as he did his own, relating the events surrounding a recent big-hit-turned-donnybrook involving Kurt Sauer levelling Andrei Kostitsyn (the hit itself was questionable, so the fight that followed was understandable... but this reaction wasn't):
[A]fter the game, Georges Laraque of the Canadiens said it doesn’t matter if a hit is "clean or dirty," somebody has to take on Sauer in that situation.

The only problem is, that kind of attitude runs counter to everything that’s noble in hockey. Yes, it does matter if the hit is clean. It’s part of the game, just like scoring goals and killing penalties.

If NHL players are going to hold themselves up as the standard bearers of internal fortitude and honor, maybe they should start acting as thought they really believe it.

Take the hit and move on.
Update: Here's Bourque on his hit and the aftermath:
"I wasn't happy with the amount of penalty minutes I'd got. I'd never seen a nine-minute powerplay before, and if I knew that would be the case, I wouldn't have done what I'd done.


Bourque said Sloan's check wasn't dirty, "just hard" so he didn't think twice about going after the Capitals defenceman.
Idiocy. Pure idiocy (and clear evidence that it's up to the refs - not the players - to get this crap under control).