What’s the Fouss? Did the NHL Make the Right Call On the Kulikov Check on Voracek?

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In this week’s edition of “What’s the Fouss?”, I will be taking a look at a controversial hit that took place last Tuesday night in a game between the Buffalo Sabres and Philadelphia Flyers. 

During the game on Tuesday night, Sabres defenseman Dmitry Kulikov delivered a huge hit to Flyers forward Jakub Voracek in the third period.  Here is a video highlight of the hit delivered:

Kulikov was assessed a two-minute minor on the play for charging.

Here is a still frame of the moment of impact:

The NHL’s Department of Player Safety will examine anything that involves the head as the principal point of contact in a violent collision.  After reviewing the video and still frame of the collision, this hit did not involve a shoulder hit to the head.  Kulikov leaned in with his shoulder and delivered a check to Voracek’s chest.  During the body check, Kulikov’s skates did not leave the ice surface.

The timing of the hit was the biggest problem on the play.  I believe Kulikov could have slowed his skating stride, and could have diverted from delivering the big check.  Kulikov was a clear second too late on this check to Voracek.

The two-minute penalty on the play was the right call.  The hit was late, and deserved a penalty.  If I was wearing the stripes on the ice, I would probably call this play as “interference” instead of “charging”.

In regards to a suspension, I feel that this hit was late, but not malicious.  If Kulikov delivered a shoulder check to the head of Voracek, this play might be worth a suspension.

It is important to note that hockey is a fast-paced game.  Huge collisions can happen at any point, and it is sometimes very difficult to dissect them as they happen live.  Even if the play is slowed down by instant replay, some of the camera angles are not necessarily in the best positions to give the best vantage point.  It is important to view questionable hits from all angles, because one angle can show one thing, while a different angle can show something else.

In recent years, the NHL has attempted to crack down on hits to the head.  Concussions are a hot topic in most professional sports leagues now, and it is important that leagues can take the necessary steps to make sure that they do not happen very often.  With the addition of more spotters inside and outside arenas this year, this should help players that could possibly be dealing with concussions.

Hockey fans have become frustrated with suspensions (and non-suspensions) handed out by the NHL in recent years.  The NHL Department of Player Safety has lacked consistency with suspension lengths and appropriate punishment to players who break the rules.

With this latest controversial hit, I feel the NHL handled it appropriately.  It was a hit that was correctly penalized on the ice, and it should not have included a suspension.  It is tough for me to give the NHL any kind of credit, since they have been wildly inconsistent with suspensions in recent years.  For once, they will actually get credit from me for making the appropriate call here.  I am hopeful the NHL will continue to find consistency moving forward with suspensions.

By: George Foussekis

About George Foussekis

I am a sports fanatic. I love hockey and football, and I enjoy writing about my two favorite sports. I am a proud Old Dominion University alum.
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2 Responses to What’s the Fouss? Did the NHL Make the Right Call On the Kulikov Check on Voracek?

  1. Leaving your feet is not conclusive evidence of a head shot, Kulikov clearly lifted his upper body just before contact and that will change the effect of the hit dramatically. I have been playing hockey for 50 years and coaching for 33, that was clearly an unnecessarily aggressive and potentially dangerous hit. It was not late at all (as Keith Jones alleged) but it was worthy of a one-game suspension, in my view, because Kulikov could have stayed low and avoided inflicting undue harm. Every hockey player knows that in that situation you don’t lift up, you simply let your momentum carry you into the opponent, finishing your check. Kulikov modified his check at the last moment to increase the aggression level and that is what should be deterred by the league.

  2. And, on closer viewing, you can clearly see that Kulikov’s feet indeed did leave the ice at contact (0:27 and 0:36 of the clip.) A clean hit (and check finish) would have his feet planted all the way through the hit, not just before.

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