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If This Wasn’t A Truly Filthy Hit, I Don’t Know What Is

12:21 PM EST on January 26, 2024

Medical staff tend to Adam Pelech #3 of the New York Islanders during the third period Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre on January 25, 2024 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The Montreal Canadiens defeated the New York Islanders 4-3. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

I have more sympathy for George Parros and the Department of Player Safety than the average hockey fan does. It is not easy or even possible to determine the proper suspension length for every single dirty hit. How do you divine intent? How much weight do you afford process vs. outcome? Does the Eggshell Skull doctrine apply? Is recklessness just as bad as malice? How do you apply consistency across your rulings—the No. 1 criticism of DoPS—when every hit is as individual as a snowflake? And then, of course, no matter the substance of a ruling, it will be derided by some segment of fans as too lenient, and by another as too punitive. It's an unwinnable exercise, because nearly every hit has some mitigating or complicating factor that requires using individual judgment.

But every once in a while, a hit comes along without a saving grace—a hit so unnecessary or malignant that all observers agree upon the need to punish it harshly. One such hit occurred in the third period of Thursday's Islanders-Canadiens game, when Montreal forward Brendan Gallagher laid out Isles defenseman Adam Pelech with a classic chicken-wing.

Pelech left the ice and did not return. Gallagher was assessed a major and told to hit the showers. The Islanders, down 3-1, scored twice on the ensuing power play to tie the game, but ultimately fell 4-3 in Patrick Roy's return to Montreal. All that was left to do was wait for the DoPS response.

This felt pretty clear. Gallagher made no attempt to play the puck, or to play Pelech's body. He went out of his way to deliver the hit, and to the head. (Pelech missed 21 games last season with a concussion, for what that's worth.) Gallagher's teammates didn't offer much in his defense afterward. The Isles didn't even feel the need to decry the hit; it was just that obvious. "I think we all saw what happened," Roy said. Even the bloodthirstiest "let them play" corners of the hockey internet figured this would be a big suspension. Eight games? Twelve? Twenty?

Everyone overestimated DoPS:

It'll be Gallagher's first suspension in his 12-year career, which is surely what saved him from missing more time. I don't think that should matter here. I think some hits are just so totally removed from valid hockey actions that you've got to bring the hammer down. Shows what I know, I guess.

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