Steve Downie's borderline assault of the Senators' Dean McAmmond shows for the millionth and third time how no one will nut up and rein in hockey's hotheads. This latest stain on the game points out the needs for a collaborative framework for suspensions between the NHL and the feeder major junior and minor pro leagues. (Keep dreaming, I know)
The absence of that means Steve Downie, suspended many times during his Ontario Hockey League career, can go to the NHL and promptly leave Dean McAmmond with "a permanent reminder of one of his 'monster performances. ' " (Many people expressed fear that would happen after his OHL club, the Kitchener Rangers, a multi-million-dollar corporation, was able to pay a piddly $500 fine to get a two-game suspension lifted. I haven't heard anyone bring this up today, so it bears repeating.)
Nine years ago, it meant Jesse Boulerice, one of the first Philadelphia players to drop the gloves last night and start fighting literally over McAmmond's prostate body, was able to go straight to the AHL after his OHL career ended. Never mind that earlier in 1998, he took a baseball-like swing that connected with the face of Andrew Long during an OHL game, breaking his opponent's nose and nasal cavity.
That's not meant to open up an old wound for Boulerice. Lord knows what he's had to go through, but it goes to show that hockey, by refusing to work together because it's too pigheaded or simply doesn't give a shit if Dean McAmmond can play with his kids five years from now, creates its own monsters. There's other issues at hand with Downie, obviously (with the pre-lockout obstruction tactics that are now outlawed, Downie might not have had a 40-foot free run), but that's the heart of it.
Sports Illustrated writer Jeff MacGregor, who wrote an acclaimed profile of the Boulerice-Long matter called, "Less Than Murder," in 1999, said then that was missing was something that would have forced Boulerice to "modify his pattern of play long before it ever came to this."
Those words apply to Steve Downie today. He has "no filter" (hat tip to Bob McCown), no couth, no shutoff switch, but that's true of who knows how many other players. No one has to make it about him (the way globesports.com's Allan Maki kind of did) to be disgusted. Don't look at him as a rogue, isolated hockey superpest. Now, some people will throw up their hands and say the NHL or AHL (where he might be headed) can't consider his bulging disciplinary file from OHL days when it metes out punishment.
Well, is there one logical reason why it can't?
Getting this crap out of the game, nailing down what is allowable, has to start long before players get to the NHL. That was true of Boulerice-Long, that is true of Downie-McAmmond and it's probably going to be true again at some point before next spring.
Last thing, if Downie is so bent on making an impression as a rookie, here's how it's done:
See how a 19-year-old Wendel Clark doesn't leave his feet to hit Bruce Bell and actually hit him when he had the puck? (Clark's feet come off the ice only from the impact of the check.) That's good, rugged hockey. What Downie did was close to assault.
Throw the book at Downie (Mike Brophy, thehockeynews.com)