Change in hockey mindset long overdue

MORRIS DALLACOSTA,, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:46 PM ET

Suspending Rouyn-Noranda Huskies centre Patrice Cormier for the rest of the hockey season, including playoffs, is the only thing Quebec Major Junior Hockey League commissioner Gilles Courteau can do.

Anything short of that ultimate suspension would send a clear message that the safety of players who play in the QMJHL means nothing to junior hockey operators.

There’s no doubt if Cormier’s deliberate, predatory, cowardly elbow to the face of Mikael Tam had happened in the Ontario Hockey League, Cormier would already be home for the duration.

That’s the way OHL commissioner David Branch rolls, thank God.

Never have headshots and cheapshots been so glaringly in the spotlight. Branch is dealing with Spitfires’ Zack Kassian’s attack on Barrie Colts’ Matt Kennedy. It would not be out of place for Kassian to be suspended for the remainder of the season as well.

Earlier this year, he suspended Mike Liambas of the Erie Otters for the remainder of the year after a hit from behind on Ben Fanelli of the Kitchener Rangers.

As we speak, the focus is all on just what kind of suspension these clowns are going to get.

You need more than that.

Cormier is a draft of the New Jersey Devils. Check out what the general manager and CEO Lou Lamoriello has to say about the incident. He was asked if the incident was a suspendable offence.

“I’m not the judge or jury, but in my opinion, no,” Lamoriello said.

Lamoriello’s concern was about all the “rhetoric” around the incident.

“I certainly have spoken to Patrice, only because of the rhetoric,” Lamoriello was quoted as saying. “I asked him how he felt because of the rhetoric.

“There is no issue from my end of it.”

That type of thinking speaks volumes about the chances of cleaning hockey up.

Scour the web and while there is indignation about the incident, there is plenty of the following.

“Cormier is a good kid. He tried to check Tam but got his elbow up. He should be suspended but this is hockey. Things like that happen.”

“It was a good kid who made a bad decision,” said Dave Cameron, head coach and general manager of the St. Michael’s Majors of the OHL and an assistant with the Canada team. “There is no doubt in my mind that if he could take it back, he would. That is not his nature. That is not his character.”

Except when he elbowed Anton Rodin in the face during an exhibition game at the world juniors as both were leaving the ice during a line change. No one made much of that shot because, after all, he was with the Canadian team.

Not in his nature?

Yeah, right.

Turning a blind eye to all this is why it continues to happen.

Hockey commentators talk about the player victimized needing to do a better job of protecting himself and knowing who is on the ice. In other words, you can’t worry about playing the game, worry about the idiot who is on the ice trying to take your head off.

It’s all so backward.

If by some miracle, Cormier was allowed to return for the QMJHL playoffs, do you think his coach Andre Tourigny would say: “Hey Patrice, what you did was terrible for our team and hockey. I don’t coach that way. We don’t play that way. You aren’t playing?”

Of course not.

But that would be a message players would really understand, yet not one coach or general manager would deliver it.

All you have to do is look at the comments Lamoriello made.

Look at the comments many have made.

“It’s a terrible thing but let’s not overact.”

The time for not overreacting is long gone.

These incidents are offshoots of the hockey mindset that starts at the top.

If Cormier had only hit Tam with an elbow causing a bleeding nose, then little would have happened. The intent was the same, only the result was different.

Teams continue to bring in players who play on the edge because intimidation is a factor in the game.

The change in mindset needs to be forced because it won’t come voluntarily.

Long suspensions need to continue. Suspend coaches because it’s obvious they can’t control their players. Hit teams in the wallet. Add substantial fines for the player’s teams involved in such incidents.

Remember Liambas, the Erie Otter suspended for the “rest of the season” for his hit on Fanelli.

On Dec. 29, he was suspended for five games from his Bloomington PrairieThunder team by the International Hockey League for a hit from behind on a Muskegon player.

If hockey is serious about cleaning this up, it needs to do a better job of getting everyone on the same page.


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