I think (read: hope) the NHL is finally taking a stand against head shots/egregiously dirty or disrespectful play.
In thinking about this, I really am very happy with what the NHL did. The caveat here is that they MUST use this suspension as the benchmark for all future incidents of egregiously-dangerous acts that result in injury to another player.
Tim Panaccio of the Philadelphia Inquirer had a conversation with Campbell after the decision was announced and included parts of their conversation on his blog on hockeybuzz:
Had another chat with Colin Campbell on Steve Downie’s 20-game suspension
He told me, “This boy left his feet, targeted the head and stalked the
player. [McAmmond] had no expectation of this hit and [Downie] drilled him. We
felt we saw retribution in the cards once [Downie] was hit himself.
“We’re not saying shoulder hits to the head are illegal. Only if all
the other criteria come into play. We don’t want to take shoulder hits to the
head out of the game.”
I argued a point with Colin. As long as shots to the head are not
outlawed, there is always going to be a “gray” area in hockey as to what is a
legal hit and illegal hit. And there is going to be concussions.
“Tim, if we take out hits to the head, do we ban fighting then?”
Campbell asked me. “I don’t want to eliminate hitting from hockey. Shoulder hits
to the head are still a legal body check. What we don’t want to do is having
players skating around with their heads down and looking for the league or
referees to protect them.”
Before Campbell made his ruling, he canvassed opinion from the NHL’s
competition committee. He said the consensus from the committee was that the
Downie hit represented the “exact” hit the NHL wants to eliminate from the game.
Flyers took the high road here. Here’s general manager Paul Holmgren’s
“My reaction is that it seems like a lot of games, but Colin Campbell
is in a very difficult position and we respect his position and his judgment in
this case. We will live with it. I was with Steve during the hearing and was
with him after the verdict. He is very upset and understandably so. He
understands the ramifications and he is prepared to live with this
Obviously Holmgren doesn't have a lot of room to tap dance on this one, but I think he's one of the most respectable GMs in the league right now, and I obviously think he's done a great job of building his team (see Eastern Conference predictions).
And finally, apparently Downie called to apologize to McAmmond but ended up leaving a voicemail. McAmmond was man enough to return the call, hear Downie out and he told the press that he was going to choose to believe Downie when he said he was sorry and didn't mean to hurt him. That, ladies and gentlemen, is class.
Way to be a credit to yourself, your team and your sport, Deano. I wish you a speedy and full recovery.