Friday, February 27, 2009

Brendan's Blunder May Cost Him The Next Few Games

This year, there have been many a suspension decision handed down by the NHL's resident Dean of Discipline, Colin Campbell, that have left many hockey fans scratching their heads. Mike Mottau's flying hit on Frans Nielsen garnered a measly two games while Thomas Pock's elbow to Ryan Shannon's noggin received 5. The inconsistency of the number of games really isn't the issue here. Brendan will get what he gets and he'll have to like it.

What I don't agree with is the stance that many hockey outlets around the blogosphere are taking with this unfortunate incident. From my vantage point up in the Blog Box last night, it clearly looked like Witt was merely trying to prevent Niklas Hagman from playing the puck. When Hagman tried to anticipate Witt's path and attempted to get around him Witt did what any hard-nosed defenseman would do in that situation: take the body, stop the man, do whatever it takes to get the puck out of the zone. For that I can't fault him.

I can fault him however, on his methods. All too often, even in the youth hockey ranks, I've been forced to call elbowing and high sticking penalties because players are not taught to keep their sticks and elbows down from a young age. Thus, they perpetuate a cycle of unnecessary violence that carries through all the way to the professional level. Obviously, in my mind, Witt was simply doing his job. The unfortunate truth is that he reacted to the situation without thinking about the consequences for Hagman's grey matter and caught him right on the kisser.

It was apparent to me as Referee Ian Walsh skated over to the scorers table, (as Witt was being escorted off the ice) to announce the penalty, that he understood the nature of the play to be accidental. It was almost in a reluctant tone that Walsh assessed a 5-minute major and a 10-minute misconduct to Witt.

My suspicions were confirmed about Walsh's reluctance post-game, as both Head Coach Scott Gordon and Witt himself stated that when they received the explanation from Walsh, he made it clear that he understood it to be an accident. The lack of a game misconduct illustrates that to me. It still however, doesn't afford any leniency in my mind when it comes to supplementary discipline. Even though both Witt and the Coach were receptive to the explanation of the major penalty, it still doesn't diminish the fact that it is a league mandate that blows to the head should be severely dealt with by the League.

After the game, Brendan expressed his apologies for the incident. He made sure to note in his media scrum, that he went out of his way to ask the doctors if Hagman was going to be okay. It was certainly clear that Hagman definitely suffered some kind of concussion just based on how he got up. Despite his attempts to reassure a fellow professional that what he did was an accident, I'm sure this will cost the veteran d-man at least 2 games and possibly more.

From an Official's Point of View

Last night, a man and official I have great respect for, took the ice to ref the game between the Isles and Leafs. Ian Walsh (#29) is a product of the USA Hockey program and a leader and mentor to young officials such as myself. I hope his example of officiating can be used by young hockey players to join our ranks and flourish under a better, more structured system than Ian ever had growing up. It was good to see you out there Mr. Walsh.

Photos courtesy of, and (Cache of a Getty Image)

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