Thursday, September 27, 2007


Potpourri for 10 games please, Alex

**I don't really want to join the debate in earnest about Downie/McAmmond, head shots, etc., but I will say that the debate in general could (as is so often the case) benefit from a bit of clarity.

For one, could we all please acknowledge that the primary aim of most bodychecks is, in fact, to hurt? Maybe it's just because I'm a bit anal about language (words matter), but it drives me crazy that every one of these situations is followed by the checker saying, "I didn't mean to hurt him". Of course you did, buddy. No, you didn't intend to cause an injury that leads to your victim missing multiple games, or being hauled off on a stretcher, or retiring. But what other purpose could there be to initiating a high-speed collision besides causing pain? If there's no pain, then what are the benefits of an open ice hit? (If getting hit wasn't painful, hockey would be a much different game).

And for two: there seems to be a growing consensus (since Tuesday night, I've heard it from players, coaches, and media alike) that a lack of respect is a, if not the, root cause of these hits to the head. I quite agree -- so may I suggest that the NHL start weighing and citing this factor explicitly when they hand out suspensions?

Bob McKenzie has never been so right as he is in this piece, where he gives a pretty compelling first-person account of the whole thing. He says you can debate how late the hit was, or whether it was an elbow, or whether Downie left his feet, but
none of it matters a bit. And that's because there is one aspect of it that is so overwhelmingly obvious the rest of it is inconsequential. And that is, quite simply, Steven Downie was looking to take off McAmmond's head and inflict damage, his protestations to the contrary notwithstanding.

Indeed. I'm on record as saying that Colin Campbell's Best Judgement is less worse than the alternatives, so I would be all in favour of him citing McKenzie's logic verbatim, Downie's history as a junior, McAmmond's status as a 13-year vet, and a desire to deter and punish appalling disrespect for other players, as cause for a 15-game suspension.

**Meta-media: I listened to Mirtle's appearance on Bob Stauffer's (Edmonton) TEAM 1260 show yesterday, where they discussed this among other things. It's the second time I've listened to Mirtle on the radio: the first time was on XM204, and man, what a difference.

He was on XM (a few weeks ago) to discuss his piece on changes in NHL teams' salary structures under the new CBA, and it was an excellent bit of radio. The hosts were clearly interested in what he had to say (his work was quite original and insightful), and asked some good questions. Even though I had read James' post, the segment was entertaining and informative.

Yesterday's was not (though I will stress that this is no fault of James). It was your standard, "let's talk about every hockey item on the front page of for 90 seconds" chit-chat. I've never heard Stauffer's show before, so I'm not really criticizing him -- and if you're going to chat with any hockey blogger about multiple general hockey topics, Mirtle's the guy -- but it seemed like a real waste.

If Stauffer is going to talk to a hockey blogger, why not talk about some of the things he's blogged about that aren't the very same subjects he covered on his own in the opening segment? Would that not make for better, more original radio?

Instead of asking Mirtle, "So, that Steve Downie's a dick, eh?" or, "Did you see Raffi Torres on The Daily Show?", he could have talked to him about guys who have impressed in the preseason, or unsigned veterans on tryouts. Or he could have asked him about his contrarian take on Gretzky's future in Phoenix, which may or may not be correct but makes all sorts of sense. Just my two cents: since weekly appearances are planned, I thought I'd pipe up.

**Not recommended if you're on dialup: excellent, link-rich roundup of NHL uni changes from the one-of-a-kind Paul Lukas of's Page 2 (and the Uni Watch blog).

**Highly enjoyable Five-word NHL Previews from the OSHL Blog. Guess who gets "Glory Years Available on Betamax"? Also from OSHL Blog: post header of the month.

**Go Flames.


To "check", in hockey terminology, is to take the puck away from the opposing player who has possession of it, unltimately to gain possession of it yourself. Therefore, the intention of a body check is not to hurt someone, but to remove them from the puck using your body, just as a stick check is to remove the puck from their possession with your stick (a poke check is similar, but more specific to the motion in which you do it).

If you were to say "hit" rather than bodycheck, then you might be on to something, but I figured since you were so anal about language...

Anonymous wins the anal contest...again (damn!).

just to add a little more "anality" (is that a word), I'm pretty sure hockey players use the word 'hurt' to mean 'injure'...much like when my little girl falls and cries, I know it hurt....but it doesn't stop me from asking "let me see if you hurt yourself" while I'm checking for injuries.....sometimes the intent of the word matters more than the word itself:o)

I'm not conceding this one yet, sorry. It would appear that a buttload of hockey players are misusing hockey terminology if anon. is correct -- what could "finish your check" possibly mean under such a strict definition?

McKenzie is spot on. I'm glad some players are speaking out too, though more should. These kind of incidents have to stop, it's truly sickening. It's unacceptable. I agree with Spector/Lyle Richards; does someone have to die before they really do something? So damn senseless. One argument I really get upset about is the "well he shouldn't have been admiring his pass" What?! Yeah, semantics maybe, but a glib way of describing a player following the play. It shouldn't be such a high price to pay for a moment of very human vulnerablity. The bottom line is it's about respect, a mind set that needs an overhaul. By the players/NHLPA and the NHL and right soon.

"Finish your check" means, roughly, "I was too slow to get there on time, but I won't get penalized, so I'm gonna hit him anyway."

But we can still keep the 'take the puck away' definition and allow that finsihing your check counts as checking. Finishing your check takes your man out of the play (one of the goals of hitting), and it makes guys more aware of the possibility of being hit (since they can;t just dumpt the puck off and automatically become safe), so less likely to rag the puck, cut into the middle with their head down, and so on. So it's an extension of the concept of 'checking', but one that makes sense.

Most guys, it should be said, don't get hurt when they get hit. Even Phaneuf's beauty on Hamel last year (one of the best hits of the year, really) didn't gurt the guy-- he got right back up and cotinued the shift.

Matt, did you call Rick Ball's mid-afternoon show in Vancouver today? Because someone called to pose the question, "What is the point of a body check?" To which Ball replied, "To separate the man from the puck." And then the caller asked, "So what does it mean to finish your check?" And at that point the listener knew the caller had put Ball in a corner. Because "finishing your check" is code for "hurting a guy," if not actually injuring him.
And that's the problem. We've come to regard hurting an opponnent as a desireable mode of play. Downie, as certifiably loony as he is, is part of a continuum that runs through clean but tough Wendel Clark through cheapshotting Jarko Rutuu. He didn't just drop out of the sky.

Downie, as certifiably loony as he is, is part of a continuum that runs through clean but tough Wendel Clark through cheapshotting Jarko Rutuu. He didn't just drop out of the sky.

How did Jarkko Ruutu end up being the extreme dirty of this scale? He doesn't go around trying to take people's heads off.

Matt, my thoughts exactly on the broadcast. I find sports talk radio embarrassing to listen to (with no fault to James -- it's all in the "talking points" of the host)

I meant there's a starting point for helmet-era tough guys. I picked Clark (a talent). And over 20 years we'd had an influx of guys who will never make it past the 4th line but exist, mainly, to "finish their checks." Ruutu came to mind because I have to watch the Canucks most often. Downie may end up in the Top 6, but he starts drawing an NHL salary by being a 4th-line check-finisher.
Every team's got one: Ville Niemenen (is he even around anymore), Jordin Tootoo, Travis Moen, Maxime Lapierre, Colby Armstrong. Low-talent cheapshotters.

Downie got into quite a bit of trouble in juniors playing for Windsor so the McAmmond hit isn't a huge surprise; making a name for yourself during training camp isn't easy to do.

I blame the new jerseys.

There are two reasons to "check" someone that I was taught when being to separate the other player from the puck, and the second (which would be "finishing the check") was to make the d-man look over his shoulder when playing a dump in, with the possibility of mis-playing the puck by worrying about the next hit...never to injure the other player. That said, I do think Downie's(sp??) hit was dirty.

All hail James Mirtle? Is that the new name of this blog?

The Colin Campbell Wheel of Justice has landed. Downie got 20 games.

We need to add The Wheel to the glossary.

All hail James Mirtle? Is that the new name of this blog?

You mean you haven't seen the pictures I have of these guys?

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