I'm not quite clear on the rule, but isn't there some distance from the boards that determines whether it's boarding or not? I guess he hit him from the side, but I thought there was something in the rule that said if it was a certain gap between the player and the boards it was boarding. I thought the Tootoo hit a couple years ago against the Dallas Larson would have fallen under this rule too. Does it actually exist? If so could that explain things?
Either way, I don't know why players can't fight if they don't like a hit. I wouldn't like getting hit like that. If the players don't like it, and they are the ones playing, shouldn't they be the ones to determine whether they think it is acceptable (regardless of the legality of it)?
It's called boarding, but here is the rule directly from NHL.com. However, I didn't have a problem with the hit. These guys play hockey, hitting is part of hockey. If you don't want to get hit, don't put yourself in a position to get hit, or don't play the game. Strong, hard, legal hits should not result in a fight. Just because fighting is 'allowed' in hockey doesn't mean players should throw fits when they get hit hard. It's part of the game. (See: Ryan Callahan)
41.1 Boarding – A boarding penalty shall be imposed on any player or goalkeeper who checks or pushes a defenseless opponent in such a manner that causes the opponent to hit or impact the boards violently in the boards. The severity of the penalty, based upon the impact with the boards, shall be at the discretion of the Referee.
There is an enormous amount of judgment involved in the application of this rule by the Referees. The onus is on the player applying the check to ensure his opponent is not in a defenseless position and if so, he must avoid or minimize the contact. However, in determining wheter such contact could have been avoided, the circumstances of the check, including whether the opponent put himself in a vulnerable position immediately prior to or simultaneously with the check or whether the check was unavoidable can be considered. This balance must be considered by the Referees when applying this rule.
Any unnecessary contact with a player playing the puck on an obvious “icing” or “off-side” play which results in that player hitting or impacting the boards is “boarding” and must be penalized as such. In other instances where there is no contact with the boards, it should be treated as “charging.”