Hockey has its share of hard hits, but does this classify as an “assault?” YouTube screen shot

Ottawa Senators forward Mike Hoffman’s cross-check of San Jose Sharks center Logan Couture one week ago earned him a two-game suspension from the NHL—as well as a cry of assault from a hockey analyst.

The play in question came in the game’s third period when, after Couture gave Hoffman a borderline over-aggressive shove of his own, Hoffman retaliated with a violent cross-check to the back of Couture’s head in front of the San Jose crease.

Hoffman received a five-minute major and a game misconduct for the hit, while Couture left the game and didn’t return. While the hit didn’t spark a bench-clearing melee like you might expect, it did garner scathing criticism from NBCSN’s Mike Milbury, who on Wednesday suggested that Hoffman’s cross-check was a “criminal” act.

“It doesn’t send a strong message at all,” Milbury said. “The league wants to try to dictate things away from fighting. But in my day, this would have been a bench-clearing brawl…That’s assault. That’s a criminal action on the street…It was a cowardly action, a cross-check directly to the head…If you’re gonna get two games for a cross-check to the head, bring back the bench-clearing brawl. I’m all for it. It would be a better way of policing the game…”

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Meanwhile, Couture went through the NHL’s concussion protocol after he was helped off the ice, but by the time he was cleared to return to the game, it was too late.

Couture said he escaped with just a sore neck, but would still like to see Hoffman suspended for what he saw as a hit aimed at injuring him.

“I expect a suspension, but who knows what they’re going to do,” Couture said. “We’ll see. I’m extremely lucky I’m not very, very badly hurt. … It looked like he intended to injure me, so I hope he gets suspended.”


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