Friday, September 28, 2007

Downie suspended 20 games

Flyers rookie Steve Downie was suspended 20 games by the NHL on Friday for his hit on Ottawa's Dean McAmmond that gave the centre a concussion.

McAmmond was taken off the ice on a stretcher in the second period of Tuesday's preseason game. Downie received a match penalty and was automatically suspended until Friday's hearing.
This is the fifth-longest suspension in NHL history, as this handy ESPN chart informs us.

My opinion? This is a good move by the league, one that's long overdue, and I hope that all future dirty plays along these lines are met with similarly lengthy bans.

Downie, unfortunately, was just the first victim of the crackdown, something that you could see coming with the way officials have decided to rework these calls in the off-season.

That's not to say there isn't a lot of difficulty in trying to determine what exactly qualifies as a punishable offence. Was Chris Neil's hit on Chris Drury last season illegal? How illegal? It was a little late and it was a blindside.

And, perhaps more importantly, just how many of these bans can the NHL afford to give out, especially when they start to involve players who are integral to their particular team's success in the standings?

Downie was an easy target given he hasn't even made the Flyers yet, but what about when it's a Jarome Iginla or Joe Thornton involved in a borderline legal situation?

What then?

UPDATE Dean McAmmond has released a statement:
"I feel the ruling is strong enough to prevent these things from happening in the future. At this point, the NHL needs to a make a statement to try to protect players, and I hope that a suspension of this length will do that successfully."

Related
NHL gets it exactly right [Eric Duhatschek]
McAmmond down, out
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31 Comments:

At 3:14 PM, September 28, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

feels like three times the usual amount. too bad there isn't a union to appeal this for him.

 
At 3:26 PM, September 28, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

FINALLY the NHL seems to get it. Would be nice if they took it a step further and published an official statement...5 criteria for these hits (1) head shot, (2) targetting opponent, (3) opponent is unsuspecting, (4) leaving feet, and (5) intent to injure. Based on the 20 games, they could tag 4 games per criteria met. Every player, coach, GM, fan would know where they stood and this crap would disappear. While last year, as a Sens fan, I would have thought it harsh...this would have made the Neil hit on Drury 8 games (4 for the head, 4 for unsuspecting)....going forward, so be it.

 
At 3:32 PM, September 28, 2007, Blogger Darrell said...

The NHL did release a statement on the suspension:, as can be seen here:

http://www.hockeybuzz.com/blog.php?post_id=9700

Clearly the NHL had informed the players, coaches and GM's what to expect from this type of hit, and it's why players from across the league reacted so negatively to this hit. It is everything you could imagine in a head shot.

 
At 3:46 PM, September 28, 2007, Anonymous Matt Gunn said...

What a joke.

5-10 games would have been fine... the hit wasn't as bad as it looked.

Unfortunately for Downie, he was made an example of.

 
At 3:55 PM, September 28, 2007, Blogger npietran said...

I think everyone who does his kind of stuff from now on is going to have an example made of them. (Thankfully) they're cracking down.

 
At 4:00 PM, September 28, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was glad to see the players speak out, none of this "well, whatever the league decides" BS you sometimes hear.
And I don't feel sorry for Downey being made an example of. This is a serious problem and the NHL needs to make a serious statement.
Frankly I feel it should have been more.
The NHL sent out a DVD to teams regarding headshots and this incident encompassed all the criteria, which is good for those who don't seem to get it.

 
At 4:01 PM, September 28, 2007, Blogger JMP said...

Matt Gunn:

You've got to be kidding. Delivering good hits is part of the game.
Unleashing traumatic head injuries on unsuspecting players is not.

I believe there's some mixed martial arts on HDNet if you're interested in the latter.

 
At 4:01 PM, September 28, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Criteria 3 is going to be hard to enforce. "Unsuspecting" is pretty hard to define. Prone would have been more applicable. Why is it someone elses fault if you are not paying attention? A "prone" player has no way to defend himself and the opponent should not take advantage.

 
At 4:01 PM, September 28, 2007, Blogger Andy Grabia said...

the hit wasn't as bad as it looked.

Oh yeah, that part with him laying unconscious on the ground was because he'd tripped on his laces.

I'm fine with 20. The key thing is for the league to be consistent. The Colin Campbell Wheel of Justice needs to cease existing.

 
At 4:02 PM, September 28, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ridiculous. The only mistake Downie made was checking McAmmond in such devastating fashion as to knock him out.

Scott Stevens regularly targeted the heads of opponents, waiting for them to become vulnerable, and then would flex his knees, driving his shoulder into the face of his opponent, with the goal of inflicting maximum damage. And he is revered as one of the most feared hitters of all time.

Downie's hit was identical to anything Stevens laid out...and the reason it caused all the weak sisters in Ottawa to cry about it was the fact his feet went flying after the hit, making it appear that he somehow jumped at his opponent. How do you jump UP at a smaller hockey player who is crouched over and looking down at the puck? You can't.

This is yet another example of the "let's think this over and come up with an arbitrary punishment that seems appropriate for the circumstances."

Will Downie get to continue to play in the pre-season, like Chris Simon? Or is he not allowed, like Sean Hill? I don't believe this was clarified in the latest proclamation from the mountain.

The NHL is is a joke of a league, and its administrators deserve no respect.

 
At 4:16 PM, September 28, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Harsh words from Campbell:

Campbell said he'd knew he would eventually deal with a head-shit incident but admitted, "I didn't think it would happen this soon and be so clear cut."

Obviously a typo, but did he mean to say "shit-head"?

 
At 4:50 PM, September 28, 2007, Blogger npietran said...

Anonymous -

Scott Stevens definitely deserved more punishment than he got for several of his hits.

The only mistake Downie made was checking McAmmond in such devastating fashion as to knock him out.

Um, yea, that's the point.

 
At 4:55 PM, September 28, 2007, Anonymous Matt D said...

There's no way that the Downie hit is anything like a typical Scott Stevens hit. Watch this top 10 Stevens hit video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7U7jUbKQYdw

Of the 10, I'd say 8 of then resulted in concussions. But notice that Stevens doens't leave his feet on ANY of them, before, during, or after the hit. In fact, after every single hit, Stevens is not only still on his skates, but he's ready to continue the play. That's good hitting.

Compare that to Downie, whoses skates end up 6 feet in the air and who lands on his facce.
Or compare it to the Sutter hit on Cherapanov, which we don't care about because Cherapanov is Russian.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=meDcW5YYe4M

Stevens hit hard, but the problem isn't hitting hard, it's jumping at guys' heads to try to kill them rather than hitting then to seperate them from the puck. Cracking down on this kind of thing still leaves room for lts of hard hitting. If you think Downie is anything like Stevens, you're crazy.

 
At 4:56 PM, September 28, 2007, Anonymous Keith said...

Yeah, the only mistake Downie made was to charge in from the blue line, leave his feet and aim for the head. Other than that, it's all good. [rolleyes]

Downie certainly was made an example of. Hopefully this example is one that is followed through the next time a player delivers such a dangerous and cheap hit.

 
At 5:34 PM, September 28, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"If you think Downie is anything like Stevens, you're crazy."

You couldn't be more wrong. Your "analysis" is stupid and makes no sense. Actually, I take that back - looking it over, it supports what Downie did:

It's irrelevant that Downie's skates ended up in the air AFTER he hit. It's an indisputable fact that the moment he hit McAmmond, his skates were on the ice. Who cares if his feet were in the air after? If his skates never went flying (again, after the hit) like in the videos you were in such a hurry to go find and triumphantly attempt to prove me wrong, this would be merely another huge hit replayed on TSN.

The fact is though, people like you who know nothing about playing the sport only saw a guy flying in the air and assumed the worst without actually thinking about it. Woo, skates flying in the air! He must have been headhunting! It's so horrible?

This debate is over: you lose.

 
At 5:34 PM, September 28, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree that the NHL finally seems to get it. Well...maybe.

20 games is about the right number of games. One quarter of a year's salary is real money to any hockey player. The suspension has to equal that kind of money otherwise a player would never take it seriously. In this case, I agree that Downie might be an easy target but it still sets the tone for the rest of the season.

The league still has to take this a step further if they want to really get rid of this stuff. They have to set it up so that the team also team feels the pain. Maybe the team loses the guy and can't bring anybody up from minors to replace him and it definitely does not free up cap space. That way the teams will write player contracts so that the team can also penalize their offending player.

If there is no such alignment of incentives/disincentives and a feedback loop, then players/teams might do the calculation and look at the loss of a marginal player for 20 games as a good return for the opposing player that got knocked out.

I imagine that the CBA might keep teams from writing something like that into players' contracts but if they really want to stop this then something like that is necessary. Both the player and team have to feel significant pain. Otherwise, the team will always sort of leave the door open to marginal players and young guys trying to prove themselves to take somebody out because the payoff (especially in the playoffs) is there.

 
At 6:01 PM, September 28, 2007, Anonymous penaltyshots.ca said...

A suspension does nothing if there is no change in the rules.It will happen again, likely in the next two months.

So according to the suspension, this was 6.5 times worse than Jansson's hit on Kaberle and 20 times worse than Neil's hit on Drury. So if you are an established NHLer it is okay, but not if you are trying to make it. gotcha.

Like you said James, "based on a whim of Colin Campbell". NHL just showed that they have no standard except to jump as high as the media tells them. Ridiculous.

 
At 6:40 PM, September 28, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

20 Games? Phew! I was worried he'd miss the Ottawa-Philly rematch in late November.

-Burninator

 
At 7:38 PM, September 28, 2007, Blogger Art Vandelay said...

I honestly don't know how anyone could defend this hit. If you're under 20 and all you've ever seen is modern day roller-derby hockey, then I suppose you see Downie's hit as part of the game. But if that's the case, check out TSN Classics when they're showing games from the Habs, Isles or Oilers cup wins. There's hitting. And lots of it. But nobody leaps through the air like Superman getting liftoff. No skates flying parallel to the ice. Why? Because it's physically impossible, when delivering a clean body check, to be mid-air, parallel to the ice, unless you're wearing a cape.
And to resort to the "if you've never played the game how would you know?" canard. Weak. Why don't you just come right out and call everybody a "pencil neck" and get it over with?

 
At 7:55 PM, September 28, 2007, Anonymous Rod said...

These anonymous twits are definitely off their rocker. Get a grip guys. Downie snapped, and then he jumped. No question about it. I've viewed it frame by frame, and there's no doubt at all. Downie was so high, he elbow nailed McAmmond in the head, even though Downie kept the elbow tucked down. No way was McAmmond skating with his head so low that Downie could do that without jumping.

As for the the assertion that this is at the whims of Colin Campbell, you've got to be joking. Wake up from the keyboard long enough penaltyshots.ca to realize the league changed the rules this summer. Additionally, they sent out a DVD to all teams that outlined 5 areas of hitting that were over-the-line, and would be punished. Downie's flying leap to the head of McAmmond hit on all 5 areas...hence the lengthy suspension.

It's also the reason the hit was criticized around the league. Everyone had been informed of the new standard, yet Downie couldn't even get past pre-season without "finishing a check" by jumping at someone's head.

Was an example made? You bet. The standard changed this off-season. Companies change their rules and policies all the time, and the NHL did this summer. Downie's dirty hit had everything the league is trying to eliminate. Result, a 20 game suspension. One I support 100%.

 
At 8:01 PM, September 28, 2007, Anonymous S said...

While I agree that Downie should have been suspended, I think the NHL is going to end up putting its foot in it's mouth. And that's the problem I have.

Lengthy suspensions are made to set precedent. But is the NHL going to follow up on the example it's making once a star player makes the same kind of hit?

Given recent history, punishment in this league is not anywhere close to uniform. Why else do we spend so much time guessing at what a suspension should be? Isn't that kind of dumb, when you think about it? We should know as soon as it happens!

Also, Dean McAmmond might want to see a voodoo doctor for all the bad luck he's having with those guys giving him shots to the head. Or, he might take the time to seriously evaluate his career before its too late.

 
At 8:04 PM, September 28, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In addition, what should be said about Brian McGrattan's comments? Or is that OK, because Downie "has it coming?"

The whole Steve Moore incident had this kind of exchange going back and forth between anything happened. Or is the league going to let public comments like that go, only to have it blow up in their faces if something happens at the next game?

I love all the Ottawa people saying that they should go after Briere and Gagne. Right, because McAmmond should definitely be mentioned in the same breath with them. If all you want is revenge, you're not any better.

 
At 8:29 PM, September 28, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

At this point in setting a new standard, I'd rather see a somewhat grey area in stiff penalities than not doing enough ending in tragedy.

 
At 8:36 PM, September 28, 2007, Anonymous PPP said...

"Scott Stevens regularly targeted the heads of opponents, waiting for them to become vulnerable, and then would flex his knees, driving his shoulder into the face of his opponent, with the goal of inflicting maximum damage. And he is revered as one of the most feared hitters of all time."

You just described the kinds of hits that need to be taken out of the game. Like Spezza said on The Score the other night, there is a big difference between a guy having his head down and getting hit and the hitter trying to put his shoulder through a guy's head.

Even if Downie didn't jump (which from some replays it looked to me like he had not) he was still trying to put his shoulder through McAmmond's head just like Janssen was trying to do to Kaberle.

6 months later it's nice to see a precedent set but like James said, let's wait until Iginla or Thornton lays a similar hit to see whether the Wheel of Justice will come back into play.

 
At 8:38 PM, September 28, 2007, Anonymous Matt D said...

wow, calling a guy crazy is a good way of getting him to start flaming,

The point about the Stevens hits is that his feet are on the ice before, during AND after.Eeven if Downie's skate is on the ice at the beginning, they sure aren't by the end.

Out of curiosity, how DID Downie's skates get 6 feet in the air? Pixie dust?

 
At 8:44 PM, September 28, 2007, Blogger Pyronite said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 8:45 PM, September 28, 2007, Blogger Pyronite said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 8:47 PM, September 28, 2007, Blogger Pyronite said...

Downie has a history of mistakes and it's obvious he hasn't learned from them. Twenty games is very reasonable.

@matt d
It's OBVIOUS that Downie's skates ended up 6 feet in the air because he didn't jump at all.

I mean, I know when I hit someone at head-level while I'm skating forward, my feet fly up BEHIND me -- it only makes sense. It couldn't possibly be that he was already jumping forward. The simplest explanation is that Downie discovered a new form of physics that enabled him to fly in the air and pivot in a different direction than the rest of us might. Not that his feet weren't planted on the ice (what a silly suggestion).

 
At 5:11 PM, September 29, 2007, Blogger Blitzen said...

I wish folks would stop comparing this hit with hits from before. Everything evolves, even the NHL and it has been decided, in consultation with players, owners, managers, etc., that a new line has been drawn on head shots. Downie is the first to feel it's application.

What burns me is that, in a radio interview with the Team1200 yesterday afternoon, Colin Campbell clearly said that he would call it differently had it happened in March or during the playoffs. That games missed this time of year are not worth as much as games missed later in the year.

It means that had this been Pronger on McAmmond in say, game 3 of the Stanley Cup playoffs, it would not have warranted a 20 game suspension.

It's stuff like this that makes this a bush league.

 
At 8:09 PM, September 29, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I totally agree with Blitzen above, it shouldn't change with the time of season. That's inane, the risk is still there of course.

 
At 2:22 AM, September 30, 2007, Blogger J. Michael Neal said...

I agree that the suspensions need to be consistent across time and player ability. Suspend them all. The fact that Colin Campbell is terrible at his job doesn't change the fact that these hits need to lead to suspensions.

As for Scott Stevens, it's time to take some (not all) of the hits he delivered out of the game. Players are now too big and too fast to allow this. It should have been done a while ago. The world didn't need Paul Kariya wobbling around after Stevens nailed him in the jaw, even if he did score a goal he can't remember.

It's simple: do not hit players in the head. Just don't do it.

 

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