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Sunday, October 3, 2010

Apple Pickin' and Head Hunting

I can tell you that when I got up on the morning of Saturday October 2nd, 2010. There was only one thing on my mind. The final preseason match-up between our beloved Canadiens, and the Islanders of New York.

So I immediately fired up my notebook, and checked to see what the announced line-up was going to be. Yeah - I was a bit surprised. I was kind of expecting something closer to what Martin might place on the ice for the opening night this coming Thursday. But then again, I should have learned by now that I should always expect the unexpected from the man behind the bench.

I was as equally surprised and disappointed by the B Team that the Islanders decided to showcase in front of an excited fan base that filled the Colisée Pepsi in Quebec City. A city that continues to show the hockey world that they are ready for a franchise to return to their beautiful city.

So in all that disappointment, I hopped into the car, and decided to head off the Island to the south shore, past the Complex Sportif Bell in Brossard, and into apple orchard country. There's no way to distract yourself better on a beautiful fall day, then going on an apple picking excursion for some fresh Cortland and McIntosh love. And I have to tell you - the trip can only be labeled as sweet success. Two bags of apples, one dozen beignets de pomme, one tourte de viande, and a pumpkin pie later ... I headed home with a big old smile on my face.

But as the evening unfolded on a lopsided thrashing of the Islanders; the Habs up by 3 goals (4-1) nearing the end of the second period, it became clear that I wasn't the only person who had decided to go hunting today. With under five minutes left in the second, Nino Niederreiter, who came over from the Swiss league, decided to go after Mike Cammellari.

Now there's going to be a lot of speculation in both camps as to what happened, but after taking much time to review the posted films today, I think it's pretty obvious.

Anyone who knows the style of Cammy, his demeanor both on and off the ice, also knows that it takes a heck of a lot to get under his skin. I mean - for Pete's sake - the guy Tweets to his fans, and sends pictures over Plixi to give them all an inside look at what team life is about. He even makes sure that he "Double Tweets" - English and French. Epitome of a nice guy is what comes to mind when one thinks of him.

And despite the sole incident that happened in Calgary, when he left Havlat in a daze off the faceoff with a bit of a suckerpunch, we all know that you don't get Cammellari to lose his temper without a reason.

Back to the video review ...

There has been a lot of concern in the NHL regarding head shots, and blindside hits in the league. And there have been plenty of examples of players that need to be held accountable for the dirty hits that they place on other players. Don't even get me started on the likes of Todd Bertuzzi and Matt Carle.  But that, my friends, is where this saga really begins. There is no doubt that the reason for a spirited reaction from Cammellari came from an unclean and dirty blindsided hit from Niederreiter.

Who would expect that from the Swiss. Aren't they lovers - not fighters?

But Niederreiter has a history. Go back to the 2010 IIHF Under 20 Championships and the spat between him and future Maple Leaf Nazim Kadri. Unsure of exactly what happened, apparently Kadri felt some unsportsmanlike action from Niederreiter, and refused to shake hands with him after the game. He was quoted as saying "Obviously, in big games like that, guys tend to lose their composure a bit, ...".

And we witnessed a lack of composure again last night.

So where does that leave us? There is a ton of speculation regarding a possible multiple game suspension of Cammalleri for the beginning of the season. And I have to mention to everyone that has posted on this situtaion, it was not the slash (as pitiful as that slash was) that Mike was called for - it was on the high stick that brushed the chin of Niederreiter. But that speculation leaves me only two offers.

First of all, I don't condone raising your stick towards anyone's head. So I would expect that Cammy feels a bit off course for making that mistake - even in the heat of the moment. But secondly, the NHL needs to nip blindside hitting from junior players in the bud. After all the discussion that has gone on to change the league rules, this is a prime example of where it needs to be assessed immediately.

And that assessment should have an impact on any supplemental discipline that is incurred after such a night of preseason hockey. If you want to hold Michael Cammalleri accountable for his reaction, then you must hold Niederrieter accountable for his head hunting techniques.

Because if we don't - we're inviting players to challenge the new rules. And those are exactly the players that we don't want in this league.

1 comment:

  1. Totally agree with you. Cammy shouldn't have hunted him down. The refs should have stepped in sooner. Nino needs to get attention for the intent to injure. That said I expect Cammy to get a suspension, and Nino to get away with it a la Matt Cooke and Danny Carcillo.