Wrong guy, wrong place, wrong time.
This, or something along the lines of it, is the thought that races through the brain of anyone who Niklas Kronwall has caught with their head down. Unsuspecting of any danger, they look at the puck to collect it. Then, in a matter of seconds, No.55 lines them up and lays them out emphatically.
While the legendary Scott Stevens mainly put the hurt on forwards in the open ice, Kronwall’s heaviest and best-known hits have occurred close to the side boards. The puck will go around the net or there will be an outlet pass, which is when the target waits for the puck, glances downwards or both.
That first pass for the ongoing rush must be tape-to-tape, otherwise the player is destined for a thundering collision and a dizzy state that prevents them from regaining their feet immediately. If one did stand up and skate away unscathed, they should always consider themselves lucky.
It’s easy to get sucked into Kronwall’s trap because he’ll be skating backwards as the sequence begins to unfold. But he changes his path quickly, adjusting his movement and gaining speed the other way. His timing and quickness of thought are a scary match, as opponents have figured out.
The term for these body checks has come to be known as ‘Kronwalled’ (verb: to smash, level, waste, ravage, devastate. Destroy, demolish, raze, imply reducing a thing to uselessness. To defeat completely). He’s thrown 113 hits this season, barely putting him in the top 100 for the year. He doesn’t overdo it, but he makes each one count.
In honor of Kronwall’s physical prowess, here are five typical reactions seen after his handiwork.
1) The O-Face
To borrow a line from Office Space, but not for sexual purposes, it perfectly captures the expression on the average person’s face following a Kronwall moment. Before discussing the sequence with friends or fellow fans who are attending the game, the first thing one tends to do is form an O with their mouth. Outside the bedroom, it means they have just witnessed an act that caused pain to someone. Watch the hit on Ryan Kesler from December and observe the spectators on the third replay. It starts with a series of blank stares and as soon as Kronwall’s back connected with Kesler, the O-Faces are out in full force.
2) Yahoo Fantasy Hockey Appeals
Participants who drafted Kronwall in their fantasy hockey leagues race to the computer, frantically checking their progress in the hits category. Expecting a bonus or extra credit for one of his model checks, they instead learn that their team will only receive a single point. Frustrated with a realization that the light bumps are equivalently counted beside Kronwall’s demolishing ones, the fantasy managers voice their displeasure. They insist that Yahoo measure hits the same way that a Richter scale examines an earthquake, but to no avail. A ‘Kronwalled’ fantasy stat must be on the verge of being added.
3) Brendan Shanahan Tries, But Surrenders
In the interest of player safety, Shanahan closely watches every incident carefully. He decides to practice his video explanation for a possible suspension that will be handed down to the defenseman, if he crosses the line in the future. But something prevents the NHL disciplinarian from displaying the professional attitude that normally highlights these commentaries. Each time he is about to discuss the check, he utters ‘Kronwalled’ and shouts at himself in disgust. Unable to refrain from using the highly popular word, Shanahan vows to never punish Kronwall and destroys the video evidence that points to his unethical reasoning. Days later, members of the Philadelphia Flyers approach his office to discuss a hit on Jakub Voracek, but he’s unavailable and on the door hangs a ‘do not disturb’ sign.
4) A New Name Is Added
A lot of Kronwall’s victims are what one would call big names. Noticing this, the other members of the Detroit Red Wings started a list that features everyone who succumbed to the Swede’s prowess. As the visiting clubs with one of these players entered Hockey Town, the Red Wings would find out where said person was having their pre-match meal. The next step sees Kronwall enter the restaurant and casually bump into his opponent, commencing the mind games. He apologizes, pays the tip and exits the premises. The opponent, in disbelief that it was Kronwall, is reminded of a check suffered through him and can’t get the image out of his head during the game later that evening. How else do you explain Detroit winning 23 in a row at Joe Louis Arena?
5) Warning Strategies Attempted
Hoping to overcome his inability to devise a suspension, Shanahan introduces mandatory stickers that are to be placed on certain pieces of glass, where Kronwall is most liable for finishing the stronger checks. Of course, this method is deemed a failure because the ‘Kronwalled’ percentage grows by almost 50 per cent. The reason? Players wisely read the warning label, but in the amount of time they spend learning of the message, Kronwall is already in prime position to run them over. The stickers are disposed of and Shanahan has resorted to passing out fliers in the meantime. On them is a picture of the 31-year-old and bold letters that read: ‘If you see this man, keep it that way’.