Ed Jovanovski was suspended recently for a hit to the head on Andrew Ebbett, which sparked a bit of controversy. You see, every time a small guy gets hit in the head by a big guy, people in the hockey community rise up and decide that the big guy was not at fault. The classic argument, and one that was posted over Twitter in defence of Jovo, is that the offender is simply being punished for being big: "the hit would be considered legal to player taller than 5'9". Its punishment to Jovo who's 6'3"."
The problem with this argument is that Jovanovski didn't hit a player that was taller. He hit a small player, and could see that he was hitting a small player. This argument is akin to getting undressed in front of a coworker and, during your wrongful dismissal claim, trying to argue, "Come on! If she was a man it'd be okay!" You can't argue that something is fine in other circumstances, you have to take the circumstances as you find them. Jovanovski found himself defending a short player, and he has to handle that situation accordingly. He's not less blameworthy, nor is he exonerated, simply because he's a big player.
In the Ebbett example, Jovanovski is in the best position to prevent the situation, which puts the responsibility to avoid the situation in his hands. There are a variety of ways to strip Ebbett of the puck that don't involve a forearm to the head. When people make the big vs small argument, they are blaming the victim. The victim that, in this case, has suffered a concussion that will adversely effect him for the rest of his life. They're also blaming the kind of player who has a tough enough time making it to the NHL with his diminutive stature as it is, let alone with people calling for big guys to be able to hit as they please without any caution for smaller players - hell, imagine Derek Boogard and Zdeno Chara arguing that the concussion they caused would've been a legal hit on someone their size. The argument is further weakened when you realize that this rationale effectively prevents Martin St Louis or Andrew Ebbett or Ryan Shannon from going into corners or even near any player over 6'2", as they are bound to get concussed if players are allowed to hit them as they'd hit other tall players. Size is simply not an excuse for dangerous hits to the opposition, nor is this a case of Jovanovski being punished for size. It's punishment for a hit to the head, and size doesn't enter into it.
The key thing to realize is that a high hit isn't bad because you are jumping, or that you're trying to reach above where you'd normally hit -- that's not why it's penalized. It is penalized because it is a hit that targets or connects mainly with the head of the opposing player, making it very dangerous. The same is true of a big player not taking into account the size of a smaller player, and knocking them in the head. It's a high hit, and one that the league has to remove from the sport.
Not everyone can afford to pay for sports coverage right now, and that is why we will keep as much of the site's content free for as long as we can.
But if you are able to, please consider subscribing to help keep our articles free (and get a few extra perks).
- Ability to comment and participate in our community
- Twice monthly newsletter available only to subscribers
- Ad-free reading
- Our undying love and appreciation
- Everything from the Erik Condra tier
- 10% discount on all merch
- Access to any future paywalled content
- A personal thank-you from the Silver Seven staff
- Everything from the Brady Tkachuk tier
- Inner peace knowing you are supporting quality, independent coverage of your favourite sports team