Friday, January 15, 2010

Kerrzy's Notebook: Another OHL Headcase

Depending who you ask, the most pressing issue facing the game of hockey today is headshots.

Whether it's predatory hits that see players targeting a vulnerable opponent, "clean" hits from the blind side or straight up dirty play, you're likely to start up some good debate if you bring up the topic.

While the NHL often does nothing when players run each other over in such a manner, other leagues have taken a far more serious stance. For example, the Ontario Hockey League (by extension of the Canadian Hockey League) handed out a severe punishment today for a hit that happened on Thursday night in a game between the league's two best teams: the Windsor Spitfires and the Barrie Colts.

Midway through the second period, as a Windsor defenceman attempted to break up a Barrie advance, the puck took a funny bounce up in the air and Colts forward Matt Kennedy got caught looking. As you'll see in the video below, 6-foot-3, 215-pound Spitfires forward Zack Kassian sees Kennedy looking and steps into him, cutting him open and sending him to the ice.

Now for the punishment : After Kassian racked up five and a game for charging and a fighting major, he was suspended indefinitely by the league pending further investigation. So the 19-year-old Buffalo Sabres prospect had a goal and 10 penalty minutes, lasting less than 27 minutes in his first game with the Spitfires, who sent a player and two second round picks to Peterborough for him last Sunday, and now he's out for what will probably be a while.

How long? Well, the OHL has already sent a player home for the season in what should be considered a pretty similar hit in a lot of ways. Mike Liambas, formerly of the Erie Otters, crushed Kitchener Rangers defenceman Ben Fanelli behind the net on October 30th in a hit that caused a lot of dialogue on the issue. Both hits are on unsuspecting players, but to me the Kassian hit is more predatory that the Liambas one, which you can see here:

On a side note, Liambas joined the IHL's Bloomington PrairieThunder after he was bounced from the OHL and was suspended for five games just a month into his tenure there for a hit from behind that ruptured a guy's spleen. I guess he didn't learn his lesson!

As for the victim of the Kassian hit, Matt Kennedy needed three stitches to his cheek and staples in the back of his head after the incident and Colts coach Marty Williamson was vocal about it afterwards, telling The Barrie Examiner "That's just baloney, Kassian is six-foot-three, he doesn't need to leave his feet and target a hit like that."

Baloney, indeed!

If I had to venture a guess, I'd say Kassian better start weighing his options outside of Ontario. What do you think?

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