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I am lucky. I grew up loving hockey, and I've always been drawn primarily to the skill, the finesse of games. I get excited every time I see a 2-on-1 developing, watching a well-machined powerplay unit can be beautiful, and watching the amazing acrobatics and reflexes of the famous netminders is breathtaking. I'm too young to remember the true glory days of the Islanders, but I'll never forget the atmosphere in the Colloseum when Shawn Bates scored on the penalty shot in the '02 playoffs. It is for moments like that that I watch hockey.
As a real fan, I also understand the importance of grit and determination, seeing your players stand up for themselves and their teammates and showing their will to win at all costs (All fair costs; I am in no way advocating cheap shots). I've spent my fair share of time watching the great fights on youtube. They are amusing, but to me not the main emblem of the sport.

Most of this country is not so lucky as us. All they know about hockey is "heh heh, I tried going to the fights last night, but a hockey game broke out", or they hear the name Todd Bertuzzi and have no idea that he was on one of the most dominant first lines in the league, all they know is "he is violent and hockey is a terrible violent sport". Or they see a two-second video clip of one guy's stick in another guy's face. This is hockey's real violence problem: People who only see the worst side of our favorite sport, and assume it is all the same. And this is something the league needs to continue to address, and perhaps find new solutions.

As an example, I will talk about the Simon incident. I am not trying to defend what he did, there needs to be a line and players need to be held accountable. I am going to talk about the specifics of this very unusual situation, and how (and my opinions on why) the league handled it.
The play started when Ryan Hollweg checked Simon from behind into the boards. Simon was seriously injured on this hit; he blacked out, and had such a bad concussion that, days later, he was not cleared by his doctors to travel to Toronto for his hearing with the league (the hearing was held in New York instead). The refs did not see the hit, and no penalty was called. Had nothing followed, and had this clip been the one to reach tv, maybe the league would have reviewed it, and maybe given a 1-3 game suspension, maybe. But then, Simon (who claimed to not remember this afterwards) turned around and apparently swung his stick at neck/head level towards his assailant. Hollweg played 10 minutes (above his average) the very next night. Yet this clip was the one that reached the national public, and this is the clip that outraged people who already had a negative impression and zero knowledge of the game. The league needed to do something drastic to show the world that it does not allow its players to use their sticks as weapons.

Had the situation been analyzed without the scrutiny of the anti-hockey public, perhaps the outcome would be different. I agree wholeheartedly that things of this nature cannot be allowed to happen, and cannot be let go lightly. However, in the light of his injury and the conspicuous absence of injury to Hollweg, perhaps the league would have been lenient. I could see 5 games minimum, 15 maximum, a fine, and definitely no carry-over into the next season. Also, reviewing the play, I could see the league giving Hollweg a 1-game suspension, maybe 3. After all, he did injure a player, and the whole point is to keep the players safe. The league was influenced by its need to save face, to make a show of penalizing Simon, just so that the naysayers can only say "its a violent sport" instead of "its a sport that promotes violence". So Simon missed the rest of the season, and will miss the beginning of next season, although afterwards he will return to the Islanders, where he will be welcome and play an important team role.

The league does have a problem with violence. That problem is in the perception of the sport. The league must continue to find a way to promote the "better" aspects of the sport, so when issues like this arise in the future, it can focus on resolving the situation in the best and most fair way possible, not in the way that looks least bad on tv.
Filed Under:   Simon   violence   NHL  
July 24, 2007 3:02 PM ET | Delete
Very nice post........If Hollweg made that same hit on Crosby, the league might have suspended the whole New York Rangers team. I've been reading posts about this stick swinging incident for 2 days now and NOONE brought up the fact that Simon's stick was going toward Hollweg's chest (where he has protection), Hollweg's own body reaction to protect himself made his arms come up and guide the stick upward. Not to mention him laying on the ground like he got shot. then he got right back up and had a SMALL cut to his chin.Don't take this the wrong way, what he did was WRONG, he did in fact use his stick with hands touching, but it wouldn't of been so bad if Hollweg didn't react the way he did. That same "swinging" motion happens every game to players legs after words have been said near the crease when the goalie covers up and play stops.
July 24, 2007 3:03 PM ET | Delete
I don't condone what Chris did, but I truly believe that these kinds of things are what happens when there is the instigator rule in place (which was meant to avoid "barbaric" incidents). If the rule didn't exist he would just go after him and kick his ass. I would think the NHL would much rather that happened.
July 24, 2007 3:18 PM ET | Delete
instagotor rule does not hand out a huge suspension though! what the other guy did was wrong 9hit from behind if i remeber right?) but chris simon took his stick and hit him in the head as hard as he could....you say he was injured ... if he was that injured he should not have been able to get up and do that to the other guy... that being said i d o respect your opinion on the matter and do agree that its small incodents such as this that turn some fans off the game that are not true fans and dont understand the game!.... if you dont like what happened come to the guy face to face drop the gloves...where he is a tough guy or not and duke it out... dont take you stick and assualt a guy
July 24, 2007 3:57 PM ET | Delete
First of all Chris Simon just passed/dumped the puck in right before Hollweg hit him, which means probably every ref on the ice saw the hit, therefore it WASN'T a penalty and that is why there WAS no need for any suspension talk for Hollweg on a clean hit. Also, I am sure the league reviewed the play several times and saw nothing wrong with Hollweg's hit (that's why nothing happened to him! duh!). Secondly, it really doesn't matter how many minutes Hollweg played the next night, it's what could have happened that makes the situation so violent. Hollweg could have either had all of his teeth knocked out with his jaw wired shut or even worse the stick could have crushed his adams apple and killed him. If anyone is lucky to still be playing hockey it is sure a hell Chris Simon.
July 24, 2007 4:01 PM ET | Delete
Let's also keep in mind that Holliweg hit Simon, circled around and then came back at him. This incident never happens if he didn't "taunt him a second time." Lets call it like it is, they were both wrong. Simon was obviously dazed by the hit. If he was thinking straight he would have dropped the gloves and kicked his ass. But he wasn't, and when he saw the guy that just wrung his bell good skating back at him, he swung. Simon does has two reputations... one as a thug and one as being the consummate team player. If he's thinking straight he never does what he did (take a 5 minute major in a tie game with 5 minutes left when his team is fighting for their playoff lives.)
July 24, 2007 4:19 PM ET | Delete
Finally, are you islander fans that naive that you really believe he "blacked out". Seriously Shardz, who do you know has had a concussion, blacked out, and two seconds later tried to kill someone. Open your eyes, he was just trying to cover his own ass.
July 24, 2007 5:06 PM ET | Delete
Chris Simon was not a first time offender, yeah Holliweg hit him, but the refs did see it and there was no call. Sticks to the head are a very serious issue, legally its assault with a weapon. If your going to be reckless with a stick, you don't deserve to be in this league. The NHL on suspensions is ludicrous, they punish injury not intent, and thats whats truly wrong with the league. Superstar players get superstar treatment by the league, sadly its true and I think every player on the ice deserves the same protection from the league. Even if holliweg provoked Simon by no means is that a justification, and the retaliator always gets the punishment. Anyone in my books who intends to injure a player on more than one occasion no matter how provoked or if "blacked out" deserves to be banned from the game.
July 24, 2007 10:00 PM ET | Delete
Chris Simon certainly deserved a suspension, and a lengthy one to boot. However, he was suspended for the playoffs too, and in my opinion that should have been long enough. Effectively, he has gotten the longest suspension ever by the NHL, and he did not injure a player (thankfully). My problem is the media picks and chooses what they want to show. Hollweg is a dirty player (too) that many players in the NHL have called out because of his borderline "legal" hits from behind. He is on the ice to agitiate, and often succeeds. He rarely fights back, and certainly not against a Simon like fighter. My take, Simon got run from behind, chin into boards, flipped because of a possible neck like injury (that can result from hitting the boards the way he did), and completely lost it as Hollweg came by to draw a penalty from Simon. A suspension to Simon is warranted, but the league picks and chooses when and where to punish. A week later Doug Weight hits Mike Komisarek across the helmet as they engage in a fight (on purpose), no suspension. Why?
July 24, 2007 10:52 PM ET | Delete
if i hear one more time that simon could have KILLED hollweg... i just don't know. hollweg could have killed simon just as well- actually, he gave him a concussion! what was wrong with hollweg after the hit? nada. he lied on the floor for a couple of minutes, then got up, and had a small cut. hollweg checked simons head (watch the video... if you're not in the NYC area, you probably didn't watch the game, so check out you tube) into the boards- HARD. -------Hollweg could have killed Simon------
July 24, 2007 11:51 PM ET | Delete
It really makes me chuckle to still hear Ranger fans claim that Hollweg did nothing wrong on the play. He clearly hit Simon from behind, should have been penalized and, perhaps, should have been suspended as well. Was what Simon did wrong? Absolutely. Was the penalty excessive? I believe so. Hollweg "dropped dead" after being hit and what was the "damage"? A busted lip. Big freakin' deal. Personally, I hope Simon beats the hell out of this pansy some time this season. It'd serve him right. This "issue" needs to be put to bed. The fact that Chris Simon has to sit any further is already ludicrous.
July 25, 2007 12:16 AM ET | Delete
I think it would be a bit extreme to say something along the lines of how Hollweg took a dive, because obviously he took a stick to the face. I will say, however, that he no doubt embellished it. But when you really break it down...what is the natural reaction of anyone who takes a stick to the face? Your head snaps back, and in that event you may very well lose your balance or just right out fall from the shock of it. I'm not saying what Simon did was ethical, nor am I saying that Hollweg took a dive, but I am saying that in the long run both of these guys went after each other and got their shots in. Concussions are part of the game, but swinging your stick like a raving maniac is a bit overboard.
July 25, 2007 12:23 AM ET | Delete
i dont know about everyone else but i m tired of hearing about the stick to the face.. its over.
July 25, 2007 10:00 AM ET | Delete
Enoughs enough........HE NEVER EVEN HIT HIM IN THE FACE !!!!!!!!! WATCH THE VIDEO. HE HIT HIM IN THE UPPER CHEST. HOLLWEG'S ARMS CAME UP TO PROTECT HIMSELF AND THE STICK CAME UP AND NICKED HIS CHIN. Everyone is saying "Stick to the head" and "head hunter" "could've took his head off".......the stick was never close to his HEAD. It was to his chest!!!!! Simply putting the word "head" in it is making out to be WAY worse then it was. It was wrong yes, but it wasn't as bad as everyone is making it out to be. McSorley slashed someone to the head from behind and it was horrific. Simon ended up getting a longer suspension then Marty. McSorley got 23 games, but was brought up on charges outside of the NHL.
July 25, 2007 11:19 AM ET | Delete
I wouldn't go so far as to say that Simon was not aiming for his head at all. And I wouldn't say that the chest isn't even close to the head either. As to why the suspension was so long, I don't know, but the act was still reckless and was filled with only harmful intent.The cleanliness of Hollweg's hit is definitely debatable. If anyone happens to know the rule on hits from behind I'd like to hear it, just out of curiousity.
July 25, 2007 11:28 AM ET | Delete
wereallislanders---how could Hollweg have killed simon, i mean seriously.. was his head going to explode when it hit the boards??? and just because he hit him from behind doesnt necessarily mean it was a penalty, which is wasn't and still isn't.
July 25, 2007 12:15 PM ET | Delete
July 25, 2007 12:15 PM ET | Delete
it doesn't take an orthopedist to understand that when you check someone from behind HEAD FIRST into the boards, you can break that person's neck. I'm just saying, let's not make Hollweg into a saint after all this. He deserved some sort of retaliation from Simon... unfortunately Simon was dazed and took it too far.
July 25, 2007 12:17 PM ET | Delete
Ever hear of Travis Roy, he went to check someone and went in head first to the boards with BU or BC on his 1st shift. Paralyzed for life, that is the risk of a hit like Hollweg's and why Simon was pissed.
July 25, 2007 1:31 PM ET | Delete
Alright fine, but if you ever watch an nhl game or have even played the sport, you would know that people get checked from behind into the boards EVERY GAME. It is most likely only very serious when someone is borded from behind (like the penalty, bording), and falls into the boards with the top of his head hitting first crushing downward on the spine/neck (T. Roy). This is why Holwegs hit wasnt as serious and why there was no penalty call, no retaliation from the league, or anything of the sort.
July 25, 2007 1:32 PM ET | Delete
-boarding
July 25, 2007 4:57 PM ET | Delete
but he gave him a concussion! as determined by a doctor... that doesn't happen every game. watch the video again, simon goes neck first into the glass because of a push from behind from hollweg... this whole incident is being beleaguered, i know. but just as "simon could have killed hollweg" hollweg could have killed simon. let's put it to rest now, they were both wrong... the reason nothing really was done to hollweg by the league is to stress the fact that what simon did is absolutely unacceptable. it makes a point clear and indisputable. but if you honestly believe that the type of hit hollweg made on simon is legal and has a place in hockey, then you're crazy.
July 26, 2007 2:30 AM ET | Delete
What Simon did was wrong, regardless of that Hollweg did. I have no idea how anyone can possibly argue otherwise.
July 27, 2007 10:47 AM ET | Delete
themizer, nobody is arguing otherwise. I am arguing that a) while it was wrong, it was not "wrong enough" to deserve 25 games suspension, including playoffs and next season, and b) what hollwig did was wrong too, and should have been disciplined as well. The argument was that the league should use discipline to protect its players, not to satisfy the media.
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