Marc-Edouard Vlasic levelled Danny Briere Tuesday evening in a hit that originally did appear to be a circumstance of Vlasic possibly just rolling at a speed that was not maintainable to prevent Briere from going into the boards head first and being impaired at all, even temporarily.
This fan even felt, at the time, that this was not an intended hit and that the fact that Briere did try to stop his own motion may have played a role in 'how' he went into the boards. Vlasic even spoke to the press about the hit following the game, stating that it was simply a case of the speed at which he was traveling and Briere unfortunately being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Following the game I searched for some actual footage, as during the game and the fact that this took place in the final minutes of play in the game--the incident and replay happened so quickly that there was no time to look closely at this. However, after reading about Briere's phone call with NHL dean of discipline Brendan Shanahan--Shanahan's ruling on it and finally, looking very closely at the footage I have included...I feel a lot differently about this.
Please note that I am a Flyers diehard; however, my view holds no bias on who was tossed into the boards...but on why the game is more dangerous--and that maybe the modern times call for a more modern 'ruling team' within the NHL Directors or Deans, if you will. I played hockey and I do not like to witness any player hurt or even temporarily dazed in any situation.
First, allow me to state that in my last article written on the Flyers continued losing streak in San Jose that I did in fact state that I felt that possibly Briere's efforts to stop on his own to try to prevent going into the boards may have played into just exactly 'how' he was sent into the boards. Today, after reading another piece on this call Briere had with Mr. Shanahan and viewing the video below this article, my opinion has pulled a 180, if you will.
This was the reported Shanahan and Department of Player Safety's ruling:
"Shanahan reviewed the video from Tuesday night's dangerous hit with 4 minutes, 52 seconds remaining in San Jose and decided that it wasn't worthy of a suspension, a league source informed the Daily News. The general consensus in the Department of Player Safety was that Briere knew Vlasic was coming and slowed down prior to getting hit, as his skates are obviously in a stopping motion. The hit, which sent Briere into the boards headfirst, was said to be more of Vlasic "extending his hands to brace himself," rather than to drive Briere into the wall."
If you clearly and closely watch this footage numerous times, you cannot help but notice the slight 'shove' that takes place from Vlasic's left arm just seconds prior to Briere's head slamming into the boards! It is right there in front of our and the League's eyes. Vlasic is clearly not losing his balance or even maintaining it...both of his skates are planted securely on the ice and he had full control of his body. There is no motion on Vlasic's part to imply he was having balance issues; speed possibly, not balance.
If Vlasic was trying to 'suspend' himself without doing harm to any player in that position, would he not have extended that 'left arm' to grab the boards--as opposed to leaning into any player in threat of going into the boards head first? This fan thinks so, but none of us were on the ice during the play.
Also, in the replay, you will see clearly that the Referee of this game is in clear eye shot of this play...it is right in front of him, with no visual distractions or action anywhere around him. It took almost a full two minutes for the officials to even acknowledge that this indeed took place and that Briere was down the entire time.
The ruling is handed down and it just may be a case of being thankful that no serious injuries were involved; however, any person suffering a head injury--and players that certainly have--will tell you that it can take days, months and in some cases even years until any symptoms or damage shows at all. I have been there and even suffer permanent nerve damage from a similar injury.
There has been talk for years now about how dangerous the game of hockey has 'become'. The game has always been dagerous to the players, given the advancements and progress within the game of hockey is where the dangers may have increased--but this is no longer the only factor in this fan's eyes following this incident.
Yes, the players are bigger and stronger than decades past; the equipment avaialable to train upon and with has certainly come a long way. The speed at which the players skate has almost tripled, again a strength factor and the quality of skates and blades available have progressed--as all things do in life and this world of technology we live in.
However, I do feel that it is now on both parts of the individual players to begin to take some personal responsibility on the ice for their actions--just like operating a vehicle--as well as the NHL League Officials or 'Deans' [whichever you prefer] to pay closer attention to these incidents. The NHL needs to hand down punishments in these cases...there was not even a five minute boarding major handed out in this case at hand and again, it took place right in front of the officiating Referee! The Flyers squad on the ice knew something had to give--even a whistle blown.
This hit may not have been intended to be harmful on Vlasic's part; however, in the midst of the type of intense 'do-or-die' play that took place in the arena in San Jose, Tuesday evening...any player can get caught up in that moment and the adrenaline and anticipation invlovled in winning a crucail game to both teams. What is important to note here is that Vlasic, and all NHL players, are personally responsible for their own actions upon another opposing player and I do think that Vlasic clearly could have made more of an effort to simply avoid Briere all together--no matter what that effort brought in the end.
Finally, shame on Mr. Shanahan and the Player Safety Board for not citing this incident to make a point and take more of a firm stance on these types of circumstances and hits. Passing something like this off--and the fact that they may again do so in the future--is what makes the game of hockey, the speeds traveled, hits executed and players physical abilities more dangerous to it's players.
I am not a Crosby fan, but look at how long he is out and still suffering effects from his injury. Chris Pronger is still battling concussion-like symptoms months later as well. Players have died this past off season to what may be contributed to head and similar injuries plaguing them; overdoses on medications they may have required to simply not live in pain. The fact is this: these injuries are extremely serious and may not affect a player until years down the line until permanent damage is evident and something does need to be handled somewhere in any attempt to keep these 'beasts' on the ice that we all love a bit safer out there...period.
The players do take their own risks skating in the NHL and similar leagues--as the hunger for the final 'beastial' game in American/Canadian sports pushes one to take--however, I do think the NHL and it's departments do need to do a bit more in the area of stepping in and not tolerating harmful situations within the live action. Support these men that skate professionally every night to even bring the NHL to life. These players are what drives the NHL and keeps it going...why not do the same for them in some means, Mr. Shanahan? Mr. Bettman? "Bueller?...Anyone?"
**Interesting note to all NHL fans: tonight on the NBC Sports Network, on 'Costas Tonight' Mr. Costas sits down NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman to discuss 'key' topics in the NHL. I did see a clip and recent injuries are brought up to Mr. Bettman...should be interesting to say the least. The schedule for NBC Sports Network shows two times for this broadcast: 8:00 pm and 9:00 pm EST. Check your local listings or the NBC Sports Network website to see when you can view this episode...this fan is definitely tuning in.