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Lucic talks hit; is it time to bring back Brian Burke Bear Hug?



Calgary Flames Milan Lucic

Brian Burke was back in town with the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday. The presence of the former Calgary Flames president of hockey operations reminded me of something a friend and former colleague mentioned the other day. The Burke Bear Hug rule.

With continued talk about the hits on Oliver Kylington and Dylan DeMelo on Saturday, the timing of Burke’s return provides the perfect opportunity to dig out some old quotes about an off-the-wall solution to boarding he had back in 2011.

The concept was simple. To avoid dangerous hits in the corners, allow players to wrap both arms around an opponent and guide him into the corners instead of smashing him through.

“They’re taking risks that they shouldn’t take, first of all, and especially when they turn back with the puck and the defenceman’s on their ass, and he’s committed to the hit,” Burke said during an NHL research and development camp more than a decade ago. “And what I’m saying is, ‘Let’s let him take him in with both hands.’ ”

Lucic avoids fine or suspension after a boarding call on Saturday

Maybe the Burke Bear Hug should be reconsidered.

Milan Lucic avoided supplemental discipline after a five-minute major and game misconduct for boarding DeMelo in the 4-2 Calgary Flames loss. But both the DeMelo and Kylington hits were dangerous and could have ended with less favourable outcomes.

Lucic said Monday he has held back on hits in the corners before, but that DeMelo saw him coming and still turned to change the outcome of the impact.

“We made eye contact. He looked at me, I looked at him and he knew I was coming. He put himself in a bad spot,” Lucic said after the Flames’ optional skate.

“There’s responsibility on hitters to not hit guys in vulnerable positions but there’s also responsibility on players to not put themselves in vulnerable positions. I think DeMelo put himself in a vulnerable spot.”

The Burke Bear Hug never made it into the rule book. But Lucic says he’s been a kinder, gentler version of his physical self at times.

“There’s guys that have said thank you to me because I’ve seen them in vulnerable positions and I haven’t finished them,” Lucic said. “I’ve had thank yous from guys on the ice for not finishing them.”