The Detroit Red Wings' Western Conference semifinals series against the Anaheim Ducks got off to a rousing start Friday night, with a dramatic 3-2 win on a late goal by Captain Nicklas Lidstrom.
But the moment everyone's talking about from Game 1 occurred at 11:29 of the first period, as Ducks winger Mike Brown unleashed a vicious hit to the head of Detroit's Jiri Hudler and that left the Red Wing bleeding on the ice. Click the image for video of this controversial check.
Despite the gruesome scene, Hudler would later return to the game. Brown was given a major penalty for interference and a game misconduct. Detroit tied the game on the ensuing power play.
On the Versus network, analyst Keith Jones was as livid as we've seen him, comparing the hit to the one that got Donald Brashear of the Washington Capitals suspended for six games. He predicted Brown would face a suspension from the NHL, and that he had played his final game of the second round. Also outraged was Dana Wakiji of the Detroit News:
I swear, after the game if Mike Brown says he hit Jiri Hudler with his elbow because he's so much taller than Hudler, I may throw up on his feet. Since that was the lame excuse that Chris Pronger (boo) used when he hurt Tomas Holmstrom in the 2007 playoffs.
TSN analyst Bob McKenzie spelled out the arguments for the Wings and Ducks in a potential suspension hearing, before surmising that Brown may not face a suspension at all:
The top sports headlines of the day
It's really up to the National Hockey League to decide what is it that they want to do. I think the NHL is going to look at it and say it's a five-minute major, it happened midway through the first period, Mike Brown is out of this game, there was no severe injury to Hudler other than the blood, he came back and he's playing, and the Ducks had to play with 11 forwards the rest of the game. There may not be a suspension in this case.
During these playoffs, the NHL has issued suspensions in various situations and not only in cases of actual injury. For Brown, the issue is intent to injure; the game misconduct would indicate the referee felt the hit entered into that territory. But watching the play in real time, it can also be seen as a hard open ice hit on a player who recently had the puck -- with some unfortunate aesthetic results.
It's not comparable to the Brashear incident, which was headhunting. But one assumes that a hit that results in pools of blood on the ice, and one that is immediately labeled "barbaric" by the national TV announcing crew, will earn some kind of supplemental discipline. Right or wrong, the NHL can be swayed by such things.