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Scott Nichol speaks about the Maxim Lapierre hit

Reaction to Maxim Lapierre’s hit on Scott Nichol has been near unanimous: it was horribly dirty play and he deserved the suspension he received, and perhaps should have been suspending for longer. On the play, Lapierre checked Nichol from behind after he had released a shot on net, sending Nichol into the boards head first and starting an angry scrum between both the Sharks and Canadiens. Nichol is out ten days with a shoulder injury himself.

Personally, the play was beyond scary and really hit me hard. As soon as I saw replay of the hit, I was instantly reminded of when Mike Modano was sent headfirst into the boards by Ruslan Sulei, a play that looked like it nearly killed him.

Lapierre was handed down a four-game suspension by the NHL yesterday. Today, David Pollack talked to Nichol about the hit and the scrum that happened afterward. His reaction may shock you.

“It’s one of those things,” Nichols said when we talked this morning. “We’re the third or fourth line and we play against other third and fourth line guys. I’m not defending him or anything, but you play right on the edge and sometimes for myself, you’re going hard to the net and things like that happen.”

Later he added: “I’m no saint by any means -- I’ve been suspended, too, before -- and in the heat of the battle, you don’t mean to do it. You’re trying to finish your check or your trying to stick up for a teammate. There’s so many different variables.”

It’s a lengthy interview, and Nichol goes on to talk about his reaction immediately after the hit and how he and the rest of the Sharks originally Andrei Markov was the perpetrator of the hit. He also has the cringe-inducing description of his injury:

“I thought my shoulder was on the other side. It just went numb and I didn’t know what went wrong. When I first hit, I thought I broke my collar bone. Everything in that area went numb, but once I came in and it settled down a little bit, it was pretty sore.

You have to respect Nichol for being not only being open to talking about the injury and the hit, but with being completely honest with his feelings. Lapierre is being vilified by the media for the hit, yet Nichol says it’s just an unfortunate play that was the result of an incredibly fast sport that is played on ice with concrete-hard walls lining the playing arena.

There’s an argument that the players nowadays aren’t any more dirty or vicious than they’ve been in the past, but that their athleticism, speed and size is making the game much more dangerous overall. The forces involved when two players collide in today’s NHL are massive, and when you add in the desire to play your heart out each night you get some plays that are the result of just plain, hard play and bad luck.

Was this that sort of play? Well, Lapierre did hit Nichol from behind when it was definitely not needed. Was it a vicious play, or just careless? Was the fact that the referee who was just feet away from the play failed to call a penalty the real injustice here? What are your thoughts?