Jannik Hansen teaches us how we see what we want to believe

Patrick Johnston
February 20 2013 04:20PM

So what did Jannik Hansen do?

What did you see?

And are you being rational?

Thoughts about cognitive bias and our reaction to controversial events, after the jump.


"We see what we want to believe"

Cops and lawyers will tell you there's nothing worse than an eyewitness. Ask eleven different people about what they saw, and everyone will tell you about something different. You may develop an approximation of what happened from these 11 different inputs, but there's going to be something missing. Or emotional stuff added in.

Most of this you aren't even away of.

So what actually happened?

The puck was in the air. Two players lunged towards it. One player struck the other in the back of the head.

That's what we know.

But we all saw something different and we all reacted in a different way.

So what do we think of Jannik Hansen? 

Is there any denying he struck Marian Hossa in the back of the head? No. There's no arguing that.

But it was amazing to watch Twitter explode last night. 

Canucks fans were incredulous that Hansen, he of the 127 PIM in 286 career games, could possibly be accused of doing anything horrible. He plays for the Canucks, and they are awesome.

Hawks fans were hardly that Hansen, he of the 127 PIM in 286 career games, could possibly have knocked out Marian Hossa with a smashing, dirty, filthy blow to the head. He plays for the Canucks, and they are horrible.

As ever, the NHL's reaction is impossible to gauge. The league has an obsession with intentions and results, as opposed to acts. Last year, Duncan Keith saw a suspension for knocking out Daniel Sedin in a horribly reckless - and apparently intentional - play. The intention was what was ruled on as much as anything.

So how do you rule on the intention here? What Hansen did was clearly reckless, but what was he trying to do?

This is a team that has earned a reputation, right or wrong, of playing in the grey area. The dirty label has been applied to the entire group, even if it really should be limited to three or four players. An outside observer would have a hard time including Jannik Hansen in that group.

We judge situations based on what we bring to the table. That's why lawyers are always hesitant to put eyewitnesses on the stand. That's why journalists look for more than just one source when reporting a story. We all bring our own cognitive biases to the table; we want to push away things we don't like.

Did Jannik Hansen do something bad - yes. Did he intend to do that - unclear. Can we seperate ourselves from the colours we wear while watching the game - oh boy.

Is your team innocent? Absolutely not. 

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Patrick Johnston is a Vancouver journalist. In addition to regular contributions here at Canucks Army, his work has appeared in The Province, Hockey Now and on the CBC. Check out his blog and other writing at http://johnstonwrites.wordpress.com or follow him on twitter: @risingaction
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#1 Betty Henderson
February 20 2013, 04:34PM
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I think you just answered your own question, "what happened"? The Puck was in the air, two players lunged towards it, one player struck the other in the back of the Head. It was an accident. Period. You can make of it what you will, the Refs were right there ,and weren't even going to call a Penalty.I rest my case. This is just absolute smoke and Mirrors.

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#2 DCR
February 20 2013, 04:58PM
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From everything I've seen, it clearly looks like an accident, and Hansen doesn't have a history.

Unfortunately, he's been tarred with the Canucks' brush which means that all bets are off.

I just saw on Twitter that he's getting a game, which is about what I expected. I think it's more than he deserves for an accidental hit, but it's not surprising.

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#3 Mantastic
February 20 2013, 05:26PM
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@Betty Henderson

doesn't matter if it was an accident, you can high stick someone by accident and still receive a penalty and refs miss calls all the time.

it was an accidental head shot and a bad one at that. there should be a suspension.

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#4 Jason
February 20 2013, 05:33PM
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Lets eliminate intent out of the question, it ended up being a head shot . It should be looked at.

That is the way the NHL should look at head shots .

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#5 Frank
February 20 2013, 05:38PM
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The puck is in the air, most people have an open hand when trying to grab or move the puck, here Hossa gets hit with an elbow or forearm in the back of his head. Hard to explain that one.

Hansen clean player Hossa one of the best players in the NHL.

My guess 1-2 game suspension.

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#6 Jefff
February 20 2013, 07:19PM
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Hansen in all his glory

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VbbKhSKU3D0

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#7 khlhfs
February 21 2013, 12:07PM
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Frank wrote:

The puck is in the air, most people have an open hand when trying to grab or move the puck, here Hossa gets hit with an elbow or forearm in the back of his head. Hard to explain that one.

Hansen clean player Hossa one of the best players in the NHL.

My guess 1-2 game suspension.

100% agree with this post. This is the one that Canucks fan completely ignore. When going to catch something you lead with an open hand. Not with your elbow/forearm.

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