Today in the Team Canada vs Team Czech Republic game at the 2011 IIHF World Junior Championships Canadian forward Zach Kassian was ejected and charged with a match penalty for his hit on Czech defender Petr Senkerik. If the match penalty is allowed to stand it would mean that Kassian is out for at least tomorrow's game against Norway along with having been tossed from today's game. The question is was the hit a bad hit or was the call that was eventually made based on the fact Senkerik remained down and would have to be taken off on a stretcher?
The reason the question is raising such a buzz is because initally on the play neither of the two referees called for a penalty at all on Kassian let alone a hit to the head, which is an automatic five minute major and game misconduct. The IIHF rule on head shots is one that was far ahead of the NHL in terms of when they started enforcing it and Rule 540 does give the referees the discretion call a blow to the head a match penalty.
In watching this play dozens of times I do not see any contact to the head on the hit by Kassian, it was late without question, but to the chest of Senkerik and it was as Pierre McGuire put it, the whiplash effect that caused the brunt of the injury. We have this in the NHL as well where the severity of the injury to the player who got hit seems to determine whether the hit was legal or not and what kind of penalty it warrants. Players can get hurt on clean hits and they can walk away from dirty ones, so we cannot use the end result as the determinant of the legality of the hit and unfortunately for Team Canada that is what happened here.