Two incidents in the hockey world had a lot of people talking---but in my mind, the one that should have been getting more attention didn't.
On Thursday night near the end of the Flames-Oilers game, tough guys Raitis Ivanans of Calgary and Steve McIntyre of Edmonton stood at a face-off and made it known to one another that they wanted to drop the gloves. They did--and Ivanans got dropped by a McIntyre punch that got him right between the eyes. Ivanans crumpled to the ice, McIntyre skated away, Ivanans was helped off the ice. Some were outraged at this. Why? It was two players who are enforcers that wanted to go with one another. It wasn't Ivanans picking on a guy like Ales Hemsky or Shawn Horcoff and it wasn't McIntyre picking on a Craig Conroy or an Alex Tanguay. If there is going to be fighting in hockey, I would rather have two guys who are pugilists go at one another than someone acting like a bully in the schoolyard and picking on someone they know they can beat up.
Lets go back one night earlier to Credit Union Centre in Saskatoon, the Tri-City Americans are taking on the Saskatoon Blades when Blades forward Josh Nicholls gets checked from behind by Americans forward Brendan Shinnimin. If you have seen the hit, you cringe. You wonder how Nicholls wasn't more seriously injured. You wonder if this could have been another Brad Hornung incident. The answer is yes! Nicholls is extremely fortunate that he didn't end up like Hornung with his hockey career and more importantly his faculties taken away from him because of one extremely stupid and very reckless play. Surprisingly, this incident wasn't hardly talked about. I didn't see Bob McKenzie preaching about checks from behind being abolished, I don't see newspaper columnists condemning Shinnimin for his actions. I'm guessing that is because the incident happened during a Western Hockey League game and not an Ontario League game like last year when Erie's Mike Llambas was suspended for the season for a hit on a Kitchener player that was far less severe in my mind even though Ben Fanelli did suffer some serious injuries. The WHL handed Shinnimin a 12 game suspension today. 12 games! Oh boy! The WHL's disciplinary board should have taken a page from the Ontario League and told Mr. Shinnimin that his season is over---at the very least, they should have given him more than 12 games. 20-25 would have sufficed in this case.
Those that are against fighting in hockey will keep the crusade going whenever an incident like the Ivanans-McIntyre fight come to light. Those that are against head shots will pick up their crusade the moment the first NHL'er is devastated by an illegal hit. However, it would seem that the problem of checking from behind---one that has proven itself to be tragic many times over ---won't go away anytime soon. Is it a lack of respect or is it a lack of those wanting to get that part of the game taken out. I'll leave that for you to decide, but I think I know the answer.