Flying under the radar today was one of the more dangerous knee-to-knee hits in recent memory that occurred last night in the opening game between the Arizona Coyotes and Dallas Stars. Late in the first period, Coyotes forward Christian Fischer was facing down none other than Stars captain Jamie Benn as he crossed the red line on a rush. Fischer decided the best course of action was to extend his left leg as Benn cut to left, making direct contract with Benn’s left knee and sending him airborne from the contact (video). The trip cost Fischer two minutes for a minor kneeing penalty, but 24 hours later there has been no word on any other supplemental discipline from the NHL Department of Player Safety.
On one hand, Fischer made a split second decision to both slow the rush and brace himself against the charging Benn. It wasn’t the type of hit typically targeted by Player Safety and did not appear to have much forethought or intent to injure. Although clearly a penalty, Fischer served his time and, to some extent, justice was served.
However, this also seems like the type of incident that has gone unnoticed almost entirely due to the result. Not only did Benn get right up, seemingly totally uninjured, but he went right back at Fischer. He also finished the night with two assists and looked perfectly healthy. Had Benn instead suffered a massive knee injury, as was entirely possible from such a check, the likelihood that Player Safety would have looked into the loss of one of the league’s top players is extremely high. Fischer was fortunate that Benn was not seriously hurt and, even if the decision was made in haste, knew full well that knee-to-knee contact could have had a disastrous result. Yet, he still decided to throw his leg into the path of the speeding Benn.
Player Safety tends to respond quickly to incidents such as these, sometimes announcing a hearing and sometimes even recognizing a controversial event and confirming that there would not be any supplemental discipline. At this point, Fischer’s knee has somehow gone totally unnoticed. Is this just a minor penalty that simply looked dramatic on the ice? Or was this a dirty play by Fischer that was dangerous and/or intentional and deserving of punishment?