Friday, September 28, 2007

NHL Puts Downie In The Timeout Chair

NHL head disciplinarian Colin Campbell sent a message to the entire NHL today by levying a 20 game suspension on Flyers prospect Steve Downie for his vicious hit on Ottawa's Dean McAmmond. I won't go into too many details of the hit itself, but I would like to applaud Campbell for sending a strong message to players that these types of hits will no longer be tolerated.

I'll be honest here, if Downie keeps his feet on the ice than this whole thing is nothing more than a hard, but clean, hit and all of the hoopla that has ensued doesn't (or at least shouldn't) happen. But Downie did leave his feet, and that is where he crossed the line. The second Steve Downie's feet left the ice he went from trying to land a hard hit to trying to seriously injure Dean McAmmond, and that is why he needed to be made an example of by the NHL front office. My only regret at this point is that Steve Downie may never set foot on the NHL's ice again and the Senators will never get the payback the must surely want right now (then again we are talking about Ottawa...)

When examining this story there is no looking past the entire body of Steve Downie's hockey career. He has a history of violent incidents against teammates, opponents, and officials and that has to come into play at some point. Colin Campbell said he did not hold Downie's past against him when determining his punishment, saying Downie had a "clean slate" with the NHL. I don't think Downie will be so lucky with regards to the other teams in the NHL. I think there is a very real chance that if things don't work out for Downie in Philadelphia, that his NHL dream will be over. I just can't see another team bringing in a kid with this much baggage that is such a risk to his team. Steve Downie's NHL career may be over before it even started, and I for one am more than fine with that.

Lost in all of the commotion around the Downie hit was a deplorable response by the on ice officials and in particular one of the linesmen. As the inevitable wave of Senators converged on Steve Downie following the hit the pileup of players grew and a couple of them, Flyer defender Lasse Kukkonen fell on top of the motionless and defenseless McAmmond. The linesman who was standing right there had a responsibility to protect the vulnerable McAmmond and instead elected to skate off and verbally engage the fighting players. Let's be real clear here, he did not even start to break up fighting players, he simply proceeded to talk/yell at them, all the while the concussed McAmmond has players fighting on top of him. It was not until Senators forward Patrick Eaves transported the team trainer to McAmmond's side that Dean received any sort of protection from the fracas going on around him.

In my opinion the NHL is very lucky that McAmmond was not further injured by the negligence of the on-ice officials. I would love to see the NHLPA step up and call out the officiating team for their disgraceful handling of the situation. I would like it even more if the NHL took a proactive approach to the problem and handed out some sort of discipline to the on-ice officials at the game. Don't get me wrong, I'm not looking for a major disciplinary measure to be handed out, but I would like to see the league hold the officials responsible for the safety of the players on the ice. Otherwise they might as well play the games without officials at all.

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