Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Bell's run-in with the law

Through four seasons in the OHL, one in the AHL and another four in the NHL, Mark Bell has established himself as a fan favourite — a player whose gritty, hard-working style makes him easy to cheer for.

Never known as a bad boy, Bell nonetheless will earn the moniker now, given his arrest over the long weekend on suspicion of drunk driving and felony hit-and-run.

Bell arrived with the San Jose Sharks in a three-way deal a little less than two months ago, and you can imagine this isn't the first impression he had in mind for his new team. Facing felony charges is serious business, and while the resulting injuries were not as grave in this case, we've already been hearing the 'Dany Heatley' whispers. (This despite the fact authorities ruled alcohol was not a factor in Heatley's October, 2003, accident that killed teammate Dan Snyder.)

Drinking and driving incidents and hockey are, unfortunately becoming interminably linked, and someone, at some point, is going to have to suffer more than a slap on the wrist.

Similar cases that immediately come to mind are Steve Chiasson, Sandis Ozolinsh, Serge Savard, Ken Daneyko, Dale Hunter, Peter Worrell, Alexei Zhamnov, Rob Ramage and Kevin Dineen — and that just what I can come up with from the last half dozen years or so.

Historically, Pelle Lindbergh's death will always be remembered as hockey's most cautionary tale.

There's a problem here, and it's one that's never really been addressed.

A brief look at Bell, who might be a little unknown to casual fans:

A first-round pick in 1998 (8th overall), Bell is 26 years old and has yet to post more than 50 points in a season. With a spot earmarked on the Sharks top line for the coming season, however, posting career numbers was — and likely still is — a distinct possibility.

Like so many youngsters in the NHL, Bell's from a tiny Canadian town and a working-class background. He grew up on farmland in Saint Paul's, Ontario — population, 40 — and his father works as the manager of a cement factory in nearby Kitchener.

Last season, Bell was named the Chicago Blackhawks "Man of the Year," an honoured earned for his charity work and community service.

On the ice, he's a tough kid, as evidenced by his victory in a fight with noted heavyweight Josh Gratton last season, and projects as a power-forward type with leadership abilities.


At 9:08 a.m., September 06, 2006, Blogger Matt said...

I'd say both Lindbergh and Steve Chiasson suffered considerably more than a slap on the wrist.

At 1:02 p.m., September 06, 2006, Blogger James Mirtle said...

I think those qualify as 'accidents' and not punishments.

Obviously, I was talking about the latter.

At 1:19 p.m., September 06, 2006, Blogger fauxrumors said...

You would have hoped that after the Heatley incident that players/people would think twice before going behind the wheel intoxicated.

At 1:32 p.m., September 06, 2006, Blogger Matt said...

Yeah, I know James. But it seems to me that you're suggesting that although two deaths have not served as adequate discouragment for other players to make this particular bad choice, more severe legal penalties to the non-dead might be. I don't care how seriously you or I take impaired driving; I don't think this is a reasonable position.

At 1:36 p.m., September 06, 2006, Blogger James Mirtle said...

I'm saying at some point someone's going to receive more serious punishment from the legal system than those listed have to date.

At 3:19 p.m., September 06, 2006, Blogger PPP said...

For most of the NHL those two deaths probably did act as a deterrent. However, for some of them that are in the prime of their lives and at the top of their profession it is very easy for them to look at Lindbergh and Chiasson's deaths and think that it won't happen to them because (insert excuse here).

Serious penalties including jail time that would take away from their career and affect their income would work as a deterrent because those are tangible consequences to the 'Invincible' crowd.

Keep in mind that NHL players are not really among the brightest athletes.

At 5:00 p.m., September 06, 2006, Blogger allan said...

You would have hoped that after the Heatley incident that players/people would think twice before going behind the wheel intoxicated.

Faux rumours indeed. It's quite well documented that alcohol was ruled out as a cause for the Heatley-Snyder incident.

But you'd think that Lindbergh, if no one else, would stand as a warning to these kids.

It's lucky that the person he his is okay. I hope he wasn't actually trying to flee the scene. The worst thing a person can do after a mistake like this is to refuse to take responsibility.

At 8:30 a.m., September 07, 2006, Anonymous Rachael said...

I was shocked when I heard this, since I'm a fan of Bells, but also more than a little pissed. I feel this way whenever I hear about someone who makes millions of dollars, goes out and has a bit too much to drink, but still won't shell out that extra bit of cash to take a taxi...come one, the $20 or so that it would cost them may save a life.

Also, I don't think he was trying to flee the scene since they found him on the curb not far away, but then again, maybe he was too drunk to walk.

At 9:53 a.m., September 07, 2006, Blogger fauxrumors said...

Yes Alcohol wasn't a factor in the Heatley incident, but like ALL DWI accidents, foolishness/carelessness was!

At 10:56 p.m., September 07, 2006, Blogger Doogie said...

Let's not forget Craig MacTavish's year in the klink for drunk driving and vehicular manslaughter. There's a hell of a cautionary tale, too.

At 4:07 a.m., September 10, 2006, Anonymous vadim sharifijanov said...

i don't mean to say that a year in jail is nothing, but craig mactavish killed a woman driving drunk. if it were you or me, it would be been 3-15 years. but, because it was a boston bruin, he got out in one. i'd say that's hardly a cautionary tale. more like an invitation for pro hockey players to drive drunk: if you manage not to kill someone, you probably won't even get community service.

At 1:50 p.m., September 10, 2006, Anonymous Jaimee said...

I was really really shocked when I heard this about Mark. He's a great guy...I know him and I also know that he usually does call a cab. Even if he isn't drunk which he rarely is. It was a mistake and a stupid one at that...I hope this doesn't ruin his career and I hope people can see past this. He's a great player and a great guy. He made a horrble mistake and yes I know someone could've been killed...and Mark I bet feels horrible about that, because he's not like that.

At 11:39 a.m., September 22, 2006, Anonymous grace said...

It's not just hockey players that get away with stuff like this. My cousin was killed by a drunk driver and the person driving received less than a year in jail. It's the system. You combine how much we love hockey players it's forgivable. But it isn't.

If it's not like someone's character, they wouldn't do it. Part of the problem is people make excuses for friends and family instead of helping them own up to their mistakes


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