Outrage. Disgust. Disappointment. Pick any other similar adjective and slap it into a description of how alot of hockey fans are feeling toward the Philadelphia Flyers these days. You will probably get alot of people to subscribe to that way of thinking.
Why? Of course, it has to do with the recent rash of ugly hits that have been dealt out by Flyers players, the most recent of whom was defenseman Randy Jones.
Along with the actions of Steve Downie in a preseason game against the Sens, and Jesse Boulerice in the 3rd game of the season against the Canucks, Jones has become the paper target for all of those alarmists around the NHL who want to hang the Flyers organization for these 3 incidents.
Just as a refresher, let's recall the incidents separately...
Downie received a 20 game suspension after landing a flying shoulder check to the head of Sens forward Dean McAmmond, causing a concussion that McAmmond has yet to fully recover from. Here is a clip of the hit on YouTube for reference...
And then, there is the Boulerice incident. Boulerice, in the midst of a 8-2 pounding of the Vancouver Canucks, cross-checked Ryan Kesler in the side of the head, earning him a league-record tying 25 game suspension. Here is that video...
And finally, there is the Jones incident. Jones wound up checking Boston Bruins forward Patrice Bergeron from behind and face-first into the boards during Saturday's game in Boston. Jones received a 2 game suspension for the incident seen here...
Now what I, and so many other fans of the Flyers and around the league are wondering is why is Jones being lambasted for this incident? Why is it getting so out of hand?
The answer is simple really. Sensationalism. It's a sort of head game that is being played by too many angry fans and far too many sports writers who should know better. Many people who know the game are forgetting the unfortunate frequency of these incidents in hockey, and the some of the real reasons for them. Instead, the cumulative emotion surrounding these 3 Flyers' suspensions is dominating the discussion.
What's getting lost in that discussion, or sensationalism rather, is context. The context of the Jones hit and the many factors that led up to the subsequent destruction of Bergeron.
And worst of all, the media is completely failing to acknowledge the biggest reason for Bergeron's injuries.
That's right. I said it.
Bergeron himself was the biggest factor in the hit that left him unconscious on the ice with a broken nose and a concussion. That might be the less politically correct viewpoint to take, and no one wants to come off as attacking an injured person, but does the media not have a responsibility to call it from both sides? You would think that the media outlets, or at least the writers, would be looking out for the NHL to some extent because whats good for the NHL is fair and even-handed reporting. Instead, some writers are taking the opposite approach. Follow the hot story. Like the old saying goes, "never let the facts get in the way of a good story."
Why are they failing to write about the fact that Bergeron slammed on the brakes about 2 feet away from the end boards with a defender right on his tail? He KNEW Jones was closing in. Otherwise, why would he have been speeding for the puck? If he thought he was the only one persuing the puck, why did he turn his back, trying to shield the puck from Jones?
The fact is, Bergeron knew he was close to the end boards and he knew that Jones was right on his back. It was irresponsible of him to turn his back to Jones and face the boards.
We see this happen over and over again through the course of any NHL season. A player gets crushed into the boards by an opponent, and far more often than not, the recipient of the hit gets up and skates away uninjured. Life goes on, and nothing more than a boarding call ever comes of it. That is, of course, if a referee even sees it.
But alot of those boarding incidents are created in large part by actions such as Bergeron's. A player turns his back to an approaching checker, and gets sent face-first into the boards because the checker is not able to stop his forward momentum in time to avoid destroying his opponent. There was literally a split-second for Jones to react to Bergeron's sudden stop. When Jones is expecting the puck to be moved into a cycle, there is no reason why he shouldn't be able to finish a check that he thought would have landed Bergeron into the boards to the side…not face first.
Something needs to be done about players putting themselves in such harm's way. Suspensions? Penalties? No. I don't think its realistic. It has to do with coaching. Teaching these players that they don’t have to risk being seriously injured or killed to maintain possession of the puck is the answer. Do everything you can physically to protect the puck, but don't leave yourself vulnerable to horrible injury.
Yes. Randy Jones is responsible as well. I'm not trying to absolve Jones of any wrong-doing, and I'm not looking through Orange-tinted glasses just because I'm a Flyers fan. It was an illegal hit, and Jones deserved the penalties he got. I wasn't particularly crazy about the suspension, but it does seem to be consistent with suspensions handed down in recent years on other boarding incidents. For that reason, I don't argue with any of the rulings on Jones.
But what is driving me and many other people crazy is the fact that some want the Flyers organization and/or head coach John Stevens fined for this. Their reasoning? They must be encouraging it. Stevens must be telling his players to "head hunt".
Get real. There are few things more destructive to his own team Stevens could do than start insisting they try to crack skulls mid-contest. First, the players wouldn't go for it and he would lose the room quicker than if he urinated in the water bottles. In general, players have more regard for their bretheren than that, and Stevens is not that far removed from his playing days to forget it. Second, the upper management of the Flyers would squash him like a bug if they knew he was doing something that so obviously would draw negative attention to the team and the league as a whole. Rememb...Ed Snider is not just the chairman of the Flyers. He is also VERY influential within the NHL itself. The Flyers organization is his ba...he would never stand for such a risky coaching tactic.
Basically, hockey fans need to stop flying off the handle and ignoring every bit of evidence other than that which points to the Flyers returning to a "Broad Street Bullies" brand of goonery. That is a period of Flyers hockey that is near and dear to all Flyers fans' hearts, but those of us with perspective of the present know that things can never be that way again…not in the "new" NHL.