Earlier this month, the National Hockey League suspended Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid two games for an illegal hit on New York Islanders defenseman Nick Leddy. Fans around the league were shocked upon learning about the suspension. This triggered an uproar from fans on social media, which brought to light how star athletes are viewed differently by society. In addition, McDavid has become one of the new faces of the league. The NHL is faced with a conflict in this situation. Is the offense serious enough to suspend the best player in the league even though he helps the league make money and bolster its reputation?
The incident occurred on February 21st as McDavid who was back checking, crossed in front of Nick Leddy and hit him in the head with his shoulder. The hit did not cause injury. However, if you analyze the video, there is an evident head snap, as well as a full 360 degree rotation of Leddy’s body following the contact.
There is no doubt that this is a suspension worthy hit as defined by the NHL rule book. The NHL and Players Association defines an illegal check as “a hit resulting in contact with an opponent’s head where the head was the main point of contact and such contact to the head was avoidable” (NHL Rulebook: Rule 48.1). I believe the hit that McDavid delivered fits the NHL’s description of an illegal check. McDavid even admitted that “it was not a great check” and that he had no intent of making head contact in a post game interview. Thus, why are people in the hockey world surprised that McDavid was suspended for the illegal action?
This is a classic example of how living under the sport ethic can raise athletes up and separate them from the communities in which they live. McDavid is not just an elite athlete, but he is one of the best. Therefore, it makes sense that many others look up to him as a role model and they perceive him to possess positive qualities. It is a shock to some people when this good person performs a bad action. Thus, when fans saw the illegal check they were quick to dismiss it because, in their minds, it did not fit with the character of Connor McDavid that they are accustomed to. Overall, the NHL handled the situation properly. The NHL treated him as they would have treated any other player, by giving him a two game suspension (standard for first time offender). In conclusion, this scenario brought to light how fans view different athletes in society.