April 5, 2008
NHL deems Bell's hit on Alfie legal
The Senators were still standing yesterday, barely.
As the debate raged over whether Mark Bell's blindside first-period hit on Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson was dirty, Ottawa centre Mike Fisher had a few choice words for the Maple Leaf.
"It's dirty for sure," said Fisher, who had his own issues after taking a knee-on-knee hit from Bell earlier in the first. "(Bell) came from behind. Nearly took (Alfredsson's) head off. Guy was wearing a bird cage. Not cool."
Senators coach and GM Bryan Murray was still fuming yesterday, too. The first thing he did was call NHL VP Colin Campbell to demand an explanation on why there was no penalty call. Campbell had no comment when contacted.
"The league doesn't agree with me and it doesn't matter at this point in time," Murray said. "I hear on the Toronto radio station they got their pound of flesh and they did. But it doesn't matter if Mark Bell is suspended or not, it doesn't affect us anyway and I could care less. I just wanted to get an opinion from the league and they said it was a legal hit."
But it was pointed out to Murray that it was pretty rich for him to complain after all the bluster last year when Senators winger Chris Neil nailed former Sabres centre Chris Drury.
"What I'm saying is exactly what the league is saying to me now. Chris Neil's hit was a legal hit. It has been reviewed a thousand times and thrown back a thousand times, but it was determined to be a legal hit. This was determined to be a legal hit," said Murray, not backing down.
"(Buffalo coach) Lindy Ruff was upset about Drury getting hurt. I'm upset about Alfredsson getting hurt. We're coaches. We're emotionally committed to protecting our players. I understand Lindy's point of view. I hope he understands, and other people understand, my point of view.
"This is a valuable asset to not have available to us and it's disappointing. People don't have to agree with me. I can answer and say what I want to stay at times. You can delete it or whatever."
KYPREOS: HIT CLEAN
Not everybody agreed with Murray. Sportsnet analyst Nick Kypreos said Bell caught Alfredsson in his blind spot and the hit was clean.
"I don't want to see my kid ever get hit like that, but that's part of the game that people pay to see. People want to see those hard hits and the game would lose a lot of its toughness element if you take those hits out," said Kypreos.
Talk about taking hits like the one Neil made on Drury and Alfredsson received from Bell out of the game has been going on for years.
"A direct blow to the head has to be penalized," said former Islanders GM and current TSN analyst Mike Milbury. "We all want to see hitting in the game, but we all don't want to see guys whacked in the head the way Alfredsson did.
"I guess you look at the circumstances and you wonder if it was absolutely necessary? It wasn't the seventh game of the Stanley Cup final. But, if the Leafs didn't play that way, then we'd be on them about that as well."
Murray said the league has to address the issue of head shots.
"There's probably a point in time where you have to take a hard look at it," said Murray.
'CLEAN, DIRTY HIT'
Centre Jason Spezza said this hit fell between the cracks of the rules for hitting.
"It's a clean, dirty hit," said Spezza. "It's within the rules, but it's a dirty hit because there's an intent (to injure) there. It follows the rules, but you can let up in situations like that."
The Leafs weren't going to let up because they were hopeful they could take the Senators down with them. Already eliminated from playoff contention, the Leafs were hoping to make golfing partners of the Senators.
Senators winger Dany Heatley confirmed Toronto pest Darcy Tucker threatened to take "his knee out" when the two were jawing after the incident.
"I don't really think it's a big deal," said Heatley. "All kinds of things are said out there. I'm not sure it really means much. I've heard worse and I've seen it taken to another level."