Monday, November 01, 2010

Jesse Martin Hit Violently, Improving

If you didn't hear about this over the weekend, or get a chance to watch it happen, University of Denver senior forward Jesse Martin was the victim of the first violent and controversial hit of the 2010-11 WCHA season.

This one -- like the one by Aaron Marvin on Chay Genoway last year -- could be season-ending. Worse yet, the words "career" and "threatening" have been thrown out on this one, too.

Martin was skating up the boards Saturday in Grand Forks when he was met by a charging North Dakota forward Brad Malone.

The seniors' bodies hit each other hard, and because Martin put his head down as he struggled to control the puck, the result was scary. Here's a look at the video, with a couple replays thrown in.

First off, some good news and bad news on Martin, who has been declared out for the year by DU.

University of Denver senior center Jesse Martin (Edmonton, Alberta) is in stable condition at the Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis, Minn., tonight after suffering a season-ending injury in last night's 3-0 win over the University of North Dakota.

Martin suffered the injury at the 11:06 mark of the second period after an on-ice collision with North Dakota's Brad Malone, who was assessed a five-minute major penalty for charging and 10-minute game misconduct on the play.

Martin was taken off the ice on a stretcher and was immediately taken to nearby Altru Hospital in Grand Forks, N.D., for observation. After tests were conducted at the hospital, it was determined that Martin needed to be air-lifted to Hennepin County Medical Center for further testing and possible surgery.

According to University of Denver Associate Director of Sports Medicine Aaron Leu, Martin suffered three fractures to his C-2 vertebrae in his neck and is in stable condition. Martin has feeling in his all of his extremities and will undergo further testing during the next 24 hours to determine if surgery is required.

Malone wasn't initially penalized, but the obvious seriousness of the injury to Martin may have played a role in the officials deciding to assess a five-minute major on Malone for charging and a game misconduct.

Now, the WCHA has a difficult decision to make. They were very late to join the rest of the world in taking a stand on headshots last year. When they finally did, fans ripped the league for making an unfair example of St. Cloud State forward Aaron Marvin.

Reality is that if Marvin had been in Brad Malone's skates on Saturday night, the league would be looking at a suspension in the area of five to eight games. Marvin's got to be considered a repeat offender at this point, and he's going to pay a heavy price if he does anything the league doesn't like.

So what does the league think they have to do to Brad Malone?

This is an illegal hit. It might not have been in 1980, but it is now. Players are bigger. They're faster. They're stronger. There is a school of thought that shoulder pads are designed now in a way that makes players more prone to damage when they get a shoulder hit from someone.

Malone charged Martin. He hit him in the head. He caused a serious and season-ending injury. The player did not see the hit coming and had no way to protect himself. Malone was clearly not making any effort to play the puck -- look where his stick is for the whole time that he's in the shot. While he appeared to be coasting, reality is that he skated down the boards for as far as we could see with no intention of playing the puck, and instead the intent to hit Martin hard.

(I don't think the stick caused any damage, nor do I think Malone wanted to use his stick as a weapon. But the reality is that you have to look at this hit differently because Malone had zero intention of playing the puck. If he did, he had his stick in a really weird position.)

No matter what, the bottom line is that players are more vulnerable to serious injury from big hits than they used to be. The human body is only capable of taking so much.

The "keep your head up" excuse is old and tired. It does not excuse illegal hits. Could Martin have avoided the brunt of the hit if he knew it was coming? Probably. But players are still responsible for the hits they throw.

Hockey is a violent, tough, physical sport. But as player safety becomes more and more important, it's up to the players and fans to adjust. Players have to adjust their style of play, and fans have to adjust the expectations they have for hard, fast, and violent contact.

The clean hits of 20 and 30 years ago won't work in this day and age. Those who can understand that and make the necessary changes to their style of play will be the ones who last the longest in the sport.

We wish nothing but the best to Jesse Martin, too. Martin is a class act who has represented one of the classiest programs in college hockey very well over his three-plus years. Hopefully, his recovery is a success, and if he can't get back on the ice in a competitive environment as a result of this injury, here's hoping he can find a way to stay involved in this great sport.


Anonymous said...

Brad Malone's hit to Jesse Matin was not a malicous intent to harm him. It was a horrible and tragic accident. Our thoughts and prayers to out to BOTH of these young men and their families as the perservere through this difficult time.

Anonymous said...

I didn't know charging was when you glide from the top of the circle to the corner boards. It was a tragic and freakish result from a clean hit, for the writer of this blog to say that it is a clear charge is absurd. If Jesse would have broke his collar bone there would have been no penalty, no suspension and would not be hyped so much. Wishes go out to both players and families, Here is hoping for Jesse a full recovery.