"It’s because we’re the Flyers," Gagne said. "I don’t want to start anything, but us doing a hit like that, it’s at least a two-minute [penalty]."
Let's look at some history.
Last season, five different Flyers were suspended for various hits. It all started with Steve Downie's hit on Dean McAmmond in the preseason. As evidenced by this video, it was definitely a dirty hit, and Downie's reputation as kind of a badass in juniors led to his 20 game suspension. A little extreme for a guy with no NHL track record? Maybe, but so be it. No complaint.
It continued a few weeks later, as the Flyers started their season on a road trip in Western Canada. During the game in Vancouver, Jesse Boulerice disgraced the Philadelphia uniform with this crosscheck to the brain. I remember how disgusted I was by it, and I said a few times that if this guy ever played a game in the NHL again that it would be a sad day in hockey. Thankfully, following his 25-game suspension that he rightfully recieved from the league, the Flyers banished him to the Phantoms, where he stayed for the remainder of the season. (The Oilers actually signed him the other day, actually, marking his first return to the NHL. What a joke.)
These two hits were malicious and they were dirty, and the Flyers, the NHL, and the hockey community all condemned them. But because of the Flyers reputation for being the Broad Street Bullies (albeit in the 1970s) and because of the reputations that preceded these two players, the orange and black were unfairly looked at as a completely dirty team.
From this point forward, whenever a slightly questionable hit occurred, the Flyers were automatically deemed the guilty party. The first incident following the Boulerice hit came on October 27th, when the Flyers visited Boston.
A dirty hit from behind? Yes. Was there malicious intent on the part of Randy Jones? No. Did he deserve a suspension? Sure, if you call it even on similar infractions around the league....
The same day as the Jones hit:
Almost identical hits. Seriously. From behind, a few steps from the boards, with the receiving player in the same dangerous, vulnerable position. Bergeron had a worse fate from his blow into the boards, losing the entire season, however Evgeni Malkin is extremely lucky that he wasn't just as injured.
Kovalev got a double minor for boarding and roughing, and nothing else was done. When this debate raged at the time, they cited how Kovalev didn't have a dirty track record. Well, neither did Randy Jones. And then they argued that Bergeron was severly injured while Malkin was not. Why is it that Alexei Kovalev isn't considered a disgrace to hockey?
Ryan Kesler wasn't seriously injured, yet the hit on him by Boulerice warranted the most severe suspension in NHL history. With the lack of a suspension to Kovalev last year, it is obvious that the Colin Campbell and NHL are just pulling these decisions out of their asses. It's a joke.
I'm not saying that Randy Jones or Jesse Boulerice or Steve Downie or Scott Hartnell or Riley Cote shouldn't have been suspended last season. But just make it fair, NHL. Just make it fair.
This all comes up tonight because of the original video in this post, a shot to the head of Gagne, delivered by Kovalev. It was a hit to the head, behind the play with no puck in sight. There wasn't even a two-minute minor, or even a discussion about whether Kovalev deserved a penalty.
"Kovalev’s shot left two bruises on the right side of his face, above and below Gagne’s lip," Tim Panaccio of CSNPhilly.com wrote today. "He said he showed referee Marc Joanette the bruises, too."
These hits are dangerous. These hits are what is killing hockey.
It seems now that the Flyers, or at least Gagne, realize that the league isn't taking action. The NHL cannot be relied on for consistent discipline. So Simon spoke up today and said what we've all been thinking. In an interview with Panaccio, Gagne said:
"Earlier this season, this is what we talked about. We have to take away the blow to the head. We have to do something about it. [Holmgren] told me, ‘You guys have to start talking about it. It’s not going to come from the officials or the league, it has to come from the players.'"
December 18. Mark your calendars. I'd expect retaliation, especially since it was Gagne who said it, a guy not exactly known for the rough stuff. Simon will retailate on his own as he promises, and the Flyers will back him up.
And even if they do it fair, they'll be the same-old dirty Flyers. A disgrace to hockey.