x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

NHL: Ottawa Senators coach defence of player is misplaced

Ottawa Senators coach Paul MacLean was to defend his defenceman, Eric Gryba, who dealt a devastating hit to the Montreal Canadiens centre Lars Eller in Game 1 of their current play-off series.

Montreal Canadiens' Lars Eller lies injured on the ice following a hit by Ottawa Senators' Eric Gryba. The hit that put Eller in the hospital with a concussion. Eller also suffered facial fractures.
Montreal Canadiens' Lars Eller lies injured on the ice following a hit by Ottawa Senators' Eric Gryba. The hit that put Eller in the hospital with a concussion. Eller also suffered facial fractures.

Recent NHL rule changes to protect players from head hits will take time to sink in.

Eventually, the rules will make the game safer.

What will prolong the process is old-school thinking, and comments like those made by the Ottawa Senators coach Paul Mac-Lean after his defenceman, Eric Gryba, dealt a devastating hit to the Montreal Canadiens centre Lars Eller in Game 1 of their current play-off series.

MacLean disingenuously called it "a hockey play that ended up going badly for Lars Eller".

Gryba met Eller at centre ice, just after the Canadiens' forward had taken a pass and turned forward.

The contact sent Eller crashing.

He was carted off the ice on a stretcher, bleeding, and with facial and dental fractures.

Ellerspent the night in a hospital, diagnosed with a concussion.

Gryba, who earned a major penalty and a game misconduct, maintained that he kept his shoulder and elbow down.

"There was no intent to hurt him whatsoever," Gryba later insisted.

Maybe so.

But it remained a reckless hit on a vulnerable skater.

Gryba's two-game suspension was the kind of message the NHL needs to make, to weed out these kind of plays.

MacLean's instinct may be to stand by his player.

But a more neutral and less callous response from the coach would serve the safety of all players much more.

 

sports@thenational.ae

 

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