Being an enforcer in the NHL is nearly impossible to come by nowadays. If you’re going to play a hard-hitting, knock out style of hockey in today’s world, you have to be a decently-rounded hockey player. You have to be able to make plays, move the puck, create open space for teammates, and of course, score goals. We rarely see that in today’s game, as if you don’t have a unique ability, strong personality, or scoring touch, you’re basically never going to get a chance.
Tom Wilson As a Prime Example
One of the enforcers today that plays his game with grit, but has been showing himself worthy on the ice is Tom Wilson of the Washington Capitals. through this previous season, Wilson had 14 goals and 24 assists in 78 games, proving himself on the scoresheet, but also massing 250 hits, which is his second career high. He was a target of a lot of scrutiny in the playoffs, where he leveled Zach Reese of the Pittsburgh Penguins in round two. He was suspended three games and titled as a “dirty player, a goon, and not worthy of playing at all”.
There’s some controversy on the hit, yes. It seemed like he was just aiming for a big hit to get his team riled up in an intense playoff matchup, but the worst possible outcome for the opposing player resulted. In no way was he intending harm; players aren’t like usually like that in today’s game.
Let me remind you that Wilson also had five goals and 10 assists in 15 games during his Stanley Cup run, proving himself the ability to play a gritty game as well as play with purpose.
The one thing that doesn’t make sense to me, is how after an injury is placed in a game after a hit, there’s call for an immediate suspension. Especially if that player has a history of playing a hard-hitting game. As the game gets faster, these type of players are going to hit harder.
Injuries are going to happen in sports, and I’m not saying that’s okay. No player should have to suffer concussions and be on the receiving end of a dirty hit. There’s obvious recognition for dirty plays and those who commit them should be held accountable. However, when you place the blame and assume poor mentality on a player solely based on his position and style of game, that’s when it becomes a problem, and that’s exactly where the enforcer role is being taken.
Yes, hockey is evolving. Like previously stated, it’s becoming a faster, more scoring based league with the intensity rising in the goal column and not the penalty minute column. However, that doesn’t mean we have to eliminate the role entirely, as the masses are claiming needs to be done to achieve a less injury prone league.
To be honest, what got you into hockey in the first place? Was it the grit? The fights, the blood, and the unruliness to do whatever it takes to be the champion at the very end?
Because that’s what got me into the sport, and it’ll be a damn shame once it’s gone. From the looks of it, it’s already on it’s way out.