I do not remember much about Thursday’s incident, New York Islander Chris Simon claims. "When I saw the tape on Friday morning, it explained a lot to me when I saw the look on my face after being hit into the boards. I was completely out of it."
Sure, Chris. Let’s see you spin that yarn on the witness stand at your assault trial. Let me know how that works out for you.
"I met with our medical staff briefly Thursday night ... they have told me that I suffered a concussion when I hit the boards."
I see. So what you mean to say is that your vicious two-handed slash to the face of the Rangers’ Ryan Hollweg on Thursday night wasn’t your fault — it was his. Right?
After all, he’s the one who gave you the concussion, and since he knocked you senseless, he’s the one to blame for your senseless act. Right?
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Thankfully, the NHL didn’t buy Simon’s "I didn’t know what I was doing" defense, suspending the Islanders forward for a minimum of 25 games, the longest consecutive games suspension in league history. The punishment effectively bans Simon for the rest of this season and any potential Islander playoff games, and will carry over into next season should the Isles not compete in 25 more contests this season.
While the league came down hard and fast on Simon for the brutal attack on Hollweg, there was one thing notably missing Thursday night: The sirens.
Where were the cops? Why wasn’t Simon in handcuffs and spending the night as a guest of the people of Long Island? Is assault with a deadly weapon a lesser crime when it’s committed on frozen water than it is when committed on a paved parking lot?
Simon’s attack on Hollweg, much like Todd Bertuzzi’s sucker-punch of Steve Moore in 2004 and Marty McSorley’s two-handed chop of Donald Brashear back in 2000, was not just "part of hockey." It was a criminal act and it deserves to be treated accordingly.
McSorley was charged in a Vancouver court for the attack on Brashear, and was convicted of assault with a weapon. An aging star near the end of his career at the time of the incident, McSorley never played again.
Bertuzzi, however, has moved on with his career after pleading guilty to causing bodily harm against Moore, while his victim has never been able to return to the ice. Has justice been served?
Simon himself admits that his assault on Hollweg was "disgusting" and has no place in hockey, but someone needs to take that a step further. This thug has to learn that this type of violent attack has no place in society, either. And you can forget about the same sort of court-ordered wrist slap that the others received, which may play well with angry fans but offers no real deterrent to on-ice crime. I need to see a sentence with some teeth. A six-month jail sentence followed by a year’s suspension from playing organized hockey would be a nice start, and it just might be enough to make the next hot-headed goon who targets an opponent for termination think twice before slashing and burning his own career.
It’s time for the NHL to ask itself if the image it wants to portray to fans is one of toothless thugs and well-paid hitmen busting one another in the face every time something
doesn’t go their way. The NBA has all but eliminated fighting by handing down stiff sentences for relatively benign crimes, such as the right cross Carmelo Anthony threw at a New York Knick back in January.
Fights and assaults are also rare in the NFL, thanks to heavy-handed discipline from league officials, and hitters are even less inclined to charge the mound in baseball, due to lengthy suspensions and fines.
Yet the NHL continues to allow fighting to be part of their game’s culture, largely because it’s part of their game’s appeal. And as long as they continue to promote fighting, rest assured that those fights will continue to escalate to assaults, whether the courts intervene or not.
Sports personality Bob Frantz is a regular contributor to The Examiner. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.