Friday, 28 September 2007

Twenty Is The Number

The NHL came down with their ruling today, and Steve Downie is being forced to sit for twenty games after his hit on Dean McAmmond. It's the fifth-longest suspension handed out by the NHL, and, quite frankly, I think it sets an excellent precedent for headshots. However, I do have some concerns about this suspension which I'll outline below. The suspension, in the eyes of this writer, is suitable for the offense committed by Mr. Downie, though. While I am surprised that the NHL came down hard on Mr. Downie, it has to be seen as a positive, especially when it comes to making the game of hockey much safer for the players.

In terms of my concerns, there are a couple. Firstly, the NHL's suspension should hold true for any other league that Downie may play in. If Downie is cut by the Flyers or sent to the AHL, he should still be forced to sit out the required twenty games. If he were allowed to play in any other league without serving his required punishment time, it would make the NHL look like a powerless entity. The NHL is the elite hockey league on the planet. The NHL needs to impose its will on the rest of the hockey world if Downie gets cut from the Flyers.

Secondly, I don't think that Steve Downie should be made into an example. Rather, I think his 20-game suspension should be the mark for establishing a suspension time when it comes to headshots. Chris Simon served a 25-game suspension for his two-handed baseball swing to the head of Ryan Hollweg. In much the same way, this suspension should serve notice to the rest of the NHL players that if you want to aim for head, you're going to have a lot of time on your hands. When a single concussion can end a career, one is too many. Especially when it comes from one of your own, NHLPA.

Thirdly, I still respect Steve Downie. He apologized to McAmmond personally, and that shows class. I've never disliked Downie over the hit, and I will continue to have respect for the hard-nosed player he is. However, headshots are not part of the game, never were part of the game, and never will be part of the game. The NHL did their part of the solution with the suspension. The NHLPA, specifically NHL players, needs to sit down to discuss the benefits of not killing their own, and to discuss finding some respect for one another so that game stops giving itself black eyes.

Twenty games. That's more than enough time for Downie to understand that headshots aren't acceptable. I hope for his own sake that Steve Downie realizes that he won't be the last guy to sit out for this, but he should realize that being first only means that he will be safer in the long run.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!


Adam C said...

20 games is good, and following on the Simon suspension, if the next guy who pulls a stunt like this gets 15+ it might even cut down on the number of head shot As you say, this should be a new standard for headhunting.

I disagree on Downie's character, though. Apologizing after the fact is just part of the hockey "code"; next he fights an Ottawa middleweight like Chris Neil, and after that everything is supposed to be forgiven. If anything, the apology puts an unfair onus on McAmmond to accept it, which he did - also part of the "code".

I kind of prefer the Steve Moore response: "You ended my career, and I'm supposed to say nice things about you because you say you're sorry? Not likely."

As to Downie, he already has a long track record of suspensions for this type of violent behaviour. He doesn't get any respect from me. If anything, the restraint he was able to show during the WJC underlines the deliberate nature of his hit this week.

If he wants respect, he's going to have to change his behaviour, and not just issue serial apologies.

Teebz said...

Adam, you're totally right about his character, but the slate is wiped clean now. It is expected that he should have a better understanding of the game and all its aspects. There have been problem players in the junior ranks before, and some have turned out to be excellent NHL ambassadors. However, I am in no way defending Downie for what he did. I'm merely saying that the maturity level between a 16 year-old and 24 year-old should be noticeable.

I do respect him for trying to talk to McAmmond, though. He admitted he did wrong, and he apologized. The main thing was that he did it on a personal level, and not through some teary-eyed press conference.

The Dark Ranger said...

That this happened in pre-season for a Wanna-Be Broad Street Bully is certainly due to his inexperience and lack of ice time and knowledge in the game.

I agree with you that he took the only way after the affair - the high road. He did everything right. I also agree that this should set precedent for deliberate head-shots.

Though, in slow-mo, Downie's hit was more something out of a Jackie Chan movie.