First off, I wish people would stop referring to “dirty” hits as something other than “intent to injure.” No intent = no dirt. Second, there are plenty of ways to check someone illegally — with the elbow, with the knee, with a cross-check, by charging, by boarding, interference, kicking, slew-footing — but a hip-check is not one of them. If the guy has the puck, and you hit him with your hip, and assuming you don’t leave your feet or are 12 feet tall so you hit him in the head with your ass, it’s a clean check.
That aside, I keep coming back to the following thought: generally speaking, cheap shots, dirty hits, whatever you want to call them…they are generally cheap and dirty not only because they are dangerous but because they are incredibly easy to do if you are so inclined. A player is vulnerable and you choose to make a play that’s outside the rules. Butt-ending, elbowing, spearing, high-sticking, cross-checking, slew-footing, charging, boarding…these are not high-skill moves. Any idiot can do it.
A hip check is a high-skill move. It requires training, timing, judgment — it’s spectacular when pulled-off. It’s embarrassing when you miss. Most people can’t do it. I was a defenseman for about 1000 games as a kid and learning how to execute a hip-check was the hardest thing I ever undertook. Even when you’re good at it, it rarely works perfectly. But when it does, it’s an event, and people talk about it for years. This is being illustrated now. People are remembering checks from years gone by to compare the Scuderi check to (e.g. the hip check on Johnson in his first game, the Malkin check from last year). In general, it’s actually one of the checks that hurts the least to receive, though it’s one of the most embarrassing — since you’ve been sent head over heels through the air and as a rule that’s always kind of humiliating when it happens against your will.