Sometimes, I find that life just sort of creeps up on you and blindsides you with a swift kick to the gut. With volleyball starting on Tuesdays, hockey starting on Fridays, and various other things that have to be done, I find my writing pace has slowed. I vow, with all of my readers as witnesses, that once the NHL season starts, I plan to go back to my intended daily writing. The off-season doesn't really give a lot of stories, so that could be part of it. In any case, HBIC (Hockey Blog In Canada, in case that acronym wasn't obvious) will be kicked into high-gear in the next three days. Get your reading glasses on because the season is long.
At the :06 mark of the video, you can see Steve Downie break off his man as he realizes that Dean McAmmond is going around the net. At the :07 second mark, McAmmond is making his way behind the net as Downie sizes him up. At the :08 second mark, McAmmond enters an area behind the net within the trapezoid called "Death Valley". This area is where the majority of players have received concussions in the last couple of years.
Colby Armstrong on Saku Koivu. Raffi Torres on Jason Williams. Steve Downie on Dean McAmmond. These three hits have one thing in common: the hittee was coming around the net while trying to make a play, and the hitter went shoulder-to-face with the hittee.
Here's where I have a problem, and I'll draw you a clear picture of why Steve Downie should be suspended for, at minimum, 20 games, if not for an entire season:
1) He glides into the zone, and then takes three strides after breaking off his man to increase his speed.
2) He leaves his feet, thereby increasing his speed again at the point of contact.
3) He had no intention of going shoulder-to-chest by propelling himself upwards with the jump into the face of an opposing player.
4) Downie is horizontal in the air at one point, proving that, indeed, he had gained speed and power by leaving his feet.
5) By catching McAmmond with his head down, he gave McAmmond no chance to brace for a hit that drove McAmmond's head and shoulders into the boards after the hit.
6) Downie risked his own head and neck area by crashing into the boards head-first after the hit.
7) McAmmond did not have the puck at the time of the hit, making this a violent and blatent interference penalty, and should be deemed "an attempt to injure".
"The timing of this whole hit couldn't be better. We watched a video on blows to the head in training camp," McAmmond explained at Scotiabank Place on Thursday.
"For this hit to come about now, it makes it more amplified. It's up to the league that they send a message to cause guys to think about hits like that."
Look, "finishing your check" is one thing. Destroying another player's career with a headshot is another. Steve Downie, you should be ashamed of yourself. Personally, if I were the coach of the Flyers, John Stevens, I'd cut Downie from the team. He has zero respect for the game, zero respect for his peers in the game, and zero respect for the conduct that makes great players fun to watch.
"For the good of Steve Downie, he needs to be suspended for a long time," said Senators' head coach, John Paddock. "For him to be in the NHL when he's 24, the best thing for the league to do is to take it away from him for a while. We all know his history in the OHL. Hockey is the most important thing to him. So take it away from him."
Steve Downie is a hard-nosed player who plays the game with an edge. I've watched him at the World Junior Championships where he was one of the hardest-working players game in and game out. However, this is a pre-season NHL game. If you're going to "finish your checks" like that, you better be prepared to fight every game. Old-time "Broadstreet Bullies" hockey left Philly in the early-1980s. It appears that if Steve Downie makes the Flyers, old-time Flyers hockey may return.
In fact, here's the return date: Saturday, November 24, 2007. It's a Hockey Night In Canada game as well, so I'll be tuning in, especially if Downie somehow makes the Flyers this season. Brian McGrattan has already given the obligatory "you're dead" speech for the next game, so this one should be a nasty affair.
RIP, Mr. Wirtz: For all the bad things that have been said about Mr. Wirtz and his ruling over the Blackhawks, this writer is saddened by the loss of one of the men who stood for tradition in the NHL. Mr. Wirtz was responsible for the United Centre being built, and he was involved in a host of philanthropic activities in and around the Chicago area. His battle with cancer was largely overlooked by most people, but he should be remembered as a man who was passionate about the NHL. Rest in peace, Mr. Wirtz. This writer wishes your family nothing but the best.
Ve-Sieve Toskala: If you're a Leafs fan and you complained about Andrew Raycroft last season, you're probably pretty worried about this season already. Vesa Toskala got shelled by the Barney Rubble Hairpieces, and has looked pretty average so far in the pre-season. In fact, it might have been the reason why he was the backup to Nabokov in San Jose. Just don't tell John-Fergie-Junior that. He's convinced that Toskala is the answer. If the Leafs don't make the playoffs, you know who to tar, feather, and lynch... and his last name isn't Toskala. It does rhyme with Jerkuson, though.
Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!