One supposes that the Dion Phaneuf obliteration of Kyle Okposo and its fallout would be a good topic for this space but a mere half-week after the mayhem, the topic seems so tiresome. Besides, much has already been written about the affair, like here, and here and — yep, here too.
But having said that enough has said about said subject, there are a couple of things still worth saying:
1) The argument about the relative rightness or wrongness of the hit based on “it’s only an exhibition game” has always seemed a little curious. It sounded equally weird a couple of years ago when Jeremy Roenick invoked it after being rocked by ex-Flame Denis Gauthier. To further complicate the issue, some fans have made an even finer distinction by suggesting the hit would have been tolerable in a pre-season match only if it was delivered by a youngster trying to fight his way on the roster.
2) A peek at fan messageboards and comment areas revealed that Wild Rose Country opinion on the incident can be divided thusly: The blue-and-copper portion of Alberta thinks Phaneuf is a gutless puke and a dirty S.O.B. and the red portion thinks The Dion is a noble warrior with virtue in his heart. What we really need is an Atlanta Thrashers fan to weigh in on the subject. One of the few analyses that avoided the extremes was typed by Calgarypuck’s D’Arcy McGrath. His defence of No. 3 was anything but absolute:
Hammer the kid for being a little too cocky off the ice, for not having an answer other than a cliche to the media, for staying on the ice too long on shifts, or for making poor decisions in his own zone resulting in goals; all of which are more fair indictments than to go after his manliness in fisticuffs.
3) At the risk of straying into the repugnant blame-the-victim area, isn’t it about time to find a way to make sure that helmets stay fastened to the melons they’re meant to protect? No matter how violent the impact, helmets should be designed (or worn) to stay put because the protective equipment never seems more necessary than when a player has been sent hurtling and is making an uncontrolled descent. The scary incident involving Ryan Smyth, who wears his helmet strap notoriously loose and has even been accused of doing so to draw penalties, is just one example of the dangers of the pop-off lid. Surely something can be done short of mandating football-style chinstraps.
4) Anytime something of this nature happens, reference is almost always made to “the unwritten code of the game” in regards to obligations and honour and appropriate responses and whatnot. Usually, it does nothing but cloud the issue, which begs the question: Isn’t worth the trouble for someone to actually write some of this stuff down and avoid further confusion?
5) There’s an excellent chance Phaneuf will pop another unsuspecting opponent this season and the odds are just as good that someone on the other team will object and attempt to extract a pound of flesh, so this topic isn’t going away anytime soon. Apologies all around for having already belaboured it to this extent, even though the original intent was not to.
Next time, we’ll deal with a fresh and novel issue. For instance, did you know that Brian Burke is now general manager of the Maple Leafs?