No sooner do we get past one headshot in the NHL, someone has to go and do something stupid again. To make matters worse, the incident occurred at the hands of a Philadelphia Flyer again. I've gone over, in great detail, why Steve Downie's hit on Dean McAmmond was a blatent attempt to injure, so I will not get into that debate again. Downie admitted he did wrong, and he will serve his suspension without any objection. Jesse Boulerice, pictured as a Hurricane to the left, will certainly have some time on his hands after his brutal crosscheck to Ryan Kesler's head in last night's game versus Vancouver.
Boulerice is known throughout the league as an enforcer, a guy who would rather throw fists than score goals. In 167 NHL games, Boulerice has totalled a whopping eight goals and two assists while piling up 319 PIMs.
Let's face it: the guy is a goon. In the OHL as a junior, Boulerice never finished below 150 PIMs. His best season in the OHL came as a Plymouth Whaler when he scored 20 goals and 23 assists for 43 points in 53 games while sitting in the sin bin for 170 minutes. The year before that, he scored 10 goals and 14 assists in 33 games for the Detroit Whalers while spending 209 minutes in the penalty box. You read that correctly: the guy played 20 less games and had 40 more PIMs. In fact, during the 1997-98 season, while as a member of the OHL's Plymouth Whalers, Jesse Boulerice swung his stick like a baseball bat and caved in the face of the Guelph Storm's Andrew Long. Boulerice was suspended for the entire next season, his overage season, in the OHL, and pleaded no contest to aggravated assault.
Boulerice's development as an NHL goon hasn't changed much. He led the Flyers in the pre-season this year with 47 PIMs, and already has 15 PIMs in the two games he's played thus far.
Last night, while the Flyers led 7-2 in the third period, Ryan Kesler attempted to throw a big hit on Flyers defenseman Randy Jones, but only connected partially. Jones barely even looked affected by the attempt. As a means of retaliation, Boulerice attempted to hit Kesler, but instead crosschecked him across the face, breaking Boulerice's stick.
"I wanted to give him a hit back," said Boulerice, knowing that he is now at the mercy of the NHL's disciplinarian, Colin Campbell.
"He cross-checked me right in the jaw," said Kesler, through a swollen lip and swollen right jaw. "Obviously, it's a dirty play. You don't like to see that happen to anybody. To have it happen to yourself, obviously, you're pissed off about it, and you shouldn't be in the game.
"I'm just lucky that my jaw's not broken. Hopefully, it's not fractured and we'll go from there."
Flyers head coach, John Stevens, offered his perspective of the play.
"It's unacceptable and it's something we can't have," he said of Boulerice's infraction. "The whole idea is we were telling those guys to just go out and play and let's keep rolling our lines and get the forecheck going.
"We need to be extremely disciplined and we didn't need to get involved with anything really - we had the hockey game in hand. And that was the message on the bench."
From this writer's perspective, this should be another twenty game suspension, if not more. Headshots are going to get someone killed, and they need to be stopped now. Boulerice's crosscheck was deliberate, and he should be forced to sit for twenty, even thirty, games. If Steve Downie was the benchmark for eliminating hits to the head, Boulerice's suspension should set a new standard. A crosscheck is a deliberate hit to the head no matter how you see it.
If Chris Simon can receive a 25-game suspension for using his stick on the head of Ryan Hollweg, Jesse Boulerice can receive the same. The precedent has been set. Now it's up to Colin Campbell to have the nerve to send the NHLPA a message: headshots are unacceptable, and will be punished with extreme prejudice.
Anything less than twenty games, and Colin Campbell will lose the war against headshots. If he loses this war, the NHL will be dealing with this headache for a long, long time.
Until next time, and I mean this seriously, keep your sticks on the ice!