When speaking of dangerous pests and agitators in hockey, you’ll often hear the phrase “one day somebody’s really going to teach that guy a lesson.”
Well, that day appears to be at hand and it’s obviously not good for the sport by any stretch of the imagination.
Tuesday night in the American League, noted juvenile delinquent Steve Downie of the Philadelphia Phantoms got a dangerous high stick up in the face of Albany’s Nick Dodge. River Rats teammate Tim Conboy furiously jumped into the fray, dropping the gloves with Downie and allegedly biting the Philly shift disturber on the hand, drawing blood.
Now, this would all make a bit more sense if Downie was five years old and the River Rats were, in fact, German Shepherds, but we are talking about full-grown men here. As much as I love vigilante justice when Charles Bronson was involved, this can’t go on at any level of hockey.
Of course, this is what players such as Downie or Ryan Hollweg bank on. Yeah, you may have to drop the gloves every once in a while to defend yourself after a particular egregious discretion, but you can hold your own. Meanwhile, the sport gets another black eye.
These players will tell you they play on the edge and they can’t change. Well, maybe the powers-that-be can help them do so. Let’s consider a “conduct detrimental to the sport” penalty. True, many fans would be loathe to put that sort of objective power in the hands of the same people who “dealt” with Todd Bertuzzi, but maybe longer suspensions – perhaps even banishments – would scare dangerous players straight.
Naturally, repeat offenders are the targets here. No matter what your thoughts are on the Doug Weight-Brandon Sutter hit, Weight is far from a problem child and is not the type of player this sort of discipline is aimed at.
Is this profiling? Maybe, but isn’t it better for Downie to sit a bunch of games – because the amount he has already missed in his young career clearly hasn’t deterred him yet – than to be done some serious permanent physical damage from a player sick of the agitator’s antics?
New concept here, people: I want to lay some wagers with you. We always get letters from readers torching us for our predictions, but they never write back to apologize when we’re right (not that we always are).
It’s time to put it on the line. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org a wager and I’ll pick my favorites and take the opposite side. Think the Flames will make the playoffs? Put it in writing. Will Barry Melrose last half the season in Tampa? I’m willing to lose face on that one.
In my blog next Monday, I’ll list all the bets and later in the season when the results of the wagers are final, I’ll produce a roundup, along with the appropriate kudos if you beat me and gentle ribbing if you don’t. We’ll even send some swag out to the victors. The puck’s in your corner, folks. It’s on.
Ryan Kennedy is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey's Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Mondays and Wednesdays, his column - The Straight Edge - every Friday, and his features, The Hot List and Prep Watch appears Tuesdays and Thursdays.
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