Kennedy can't remember hit

IAN SHANTZ, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:41 PM ET

Matt Kennedy was fuming mad.

"He was trying to hurt me," the Horseshoe Valley native said Friday. "He has no respect."

Kennedy was reacting to the controversial hit Zack Kassian delivered on him less than 24 hours earlier, during Thursday's Ontario Hockey League game between the Barrie Colts and Windsor Spitfires in Windsor.

Kassian, a 19-year-old Spitfires forward, crunched Kennedy, a 20-year-old Colts forward, just below the centre-ice area in the second period.

At issue is that Kassian appeared to line up Kennedy before leaving his feet in a forward lunge, and Kennedy did not appear to have control of the puck — he was looking up for it — when Kassian threw the hard check.

Kassian was assessed a major penalty for charging, which comes with an automatic game misconduct.

He also received a fighting major after dropping the gloves with Colts defenceman Matt Stanisz immediately following the hit.

Upon reviewing footage of the hit Friday, the league suspended Kassian indefinitely.

League commissioner David Branch will determine whether further discipline is warranted after he meets with Kassian and Spitfires general manager Warren Rychel on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Kennedy, who has a history of concussions, is sidelined with another one. He left the game on his own power. He received three stitches to his right cheek after being cut by his visor when his helmet flew off. He received three staples to the back of his head, which slammed against the ice.

"I don't remember getting hit. I couldn't tell you what happened," said Kennedy, who has watched the footage. "I kind of blacked out."

Kennedy's dad, Brian, drove to Plymouth Friday to bring his son home to the Barrie area. The Colts were set to face the Whalers Friday night without Kennedy, who will likely be sidelined for a few weeks.

"It's more of a precautionary thing. Going home to rest is the best thing for me right now," said Kennedy, a six-foot-two, 203-pound Carolina Hurricanes draft pick.

Spitfires vice president and general manager Warren Rychel said the entire Windsor organization feels terrible about what transpired.

"Obviously, it's very unfortunate," he said. "I talked to Zack and he never intended to hurt anybody. He was very upset. It's a tough day for the Spitfires."

The hit might have touched a nerve, as it comes just a few months after former Erie Otters overage forward Michael Liambas received a lifetime ban from the OHL for his hit on Kitchener Rangers rookie defenceman Ben Fanelli on Oct. 30.

Liambas hammered Fanelli into the boards. Fanelli's head struck the glass and he was rushed to hospital with skull and facial fractures. He hasn't played since.

Kassian, a six-foot-three, 215-pound power forward, delivered the hit on open ice.

Rychel thinks the two incidents are miles apart.

"It's not even comparable to Liambas," Rychel said. "I want to make it clear that that's not even close to Liambas."

League vice president Ted Baker wasn't prepared to compare the two incidents either.

"We obviously have a concern with the hit," he said. "(But) I can't speak on how people react to a certain situation."

Kennedy thinks the hits are comparable, and he thinks Kassian should pay a hefty price for his actions.

"He tried to hurt me like Liambas tried to hurt Fanelli. Obviously, he has no respect," the big winger said. "I don't mind getting hit if he'd laid a good body check on me ... but the frustrating part is I never touched the puck. Nowhere in that play is it a part of hockey.

"Kassian was definitely trying to hurt me."

Barrie head coach Marty Williamson said it's up the league to determine the appropriate actions, but he feels a suspension is warranted.

"It's the same type of hit (as the Liambas hit), just slightly different because of where the hit took place," Williamson said. "I saw it live and I saw it on video, and I see a guy who never touched the puck, who left his feet and who delivered a head check.

"We all agree, there's no place for it," the coach added.

Rychel thought Kassian hit Kennedy in the chest.

"I don't know what the league's going to do," the general manager said. "But (Kassian) thrust through him. He finishes his checks."

Colts captain Stefan Della Rovere, 19, was also assessed a five-minute major and an automatic game misconduct for his head check on 16-year-old Windsor defenceman Craig Duininck in the third period.

The league ruled Friday afternoon that Della Rovere would receive no addition punishment.

"I thought that was a blatant elbow on a 16-year-old kid," Rychel said. "Maybe he should have gone and elbowed (overage toughguy) Harry Young instead, and you can quote me on that."

Kassian is a first-round draft pick of the Buffalo Sabres.

The LaSalle native was acquired from the Peterborough Petes at the trade deadline to give Windsor some muscle down the stretch. Thursday marked his debut with the Spitfires, and he scored his team's first goal.

Kassian came under fire when he injured former OHL superstar John Tavares with a body check he threw during the Top Prospects game in January 2009.

Kassian has been slapped with multi-game suspensions on at least two other occasions for head checks during his time in the league.


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