Better to receive than give

RYAN PYETTE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:36 PM ET

LONDON, ONT. - It figures as much, in this final week of a regular season dominated by head checks and discipline, the OHL brass had to spend time reviewing tape of a controversial hit that injured its top prospect.

This is no time for commissioner David Branch and his crew to do a happy dance.

With the playoffs looming, you have Nail Yakupov, the Sarnia Sting standout and soon-to-be first overall NHL draft pick, on the sidelines, perhaps even for Friday's Rogers Sportsnet tilt in London -- a TV property the league wants to see grow.

And on the other side of this, you have Owen Sound captain Michael Halmo, one of the best offensive stories in major junior hockey this year, who nailed Yakupov in the train tracks, was handed a charging major, then had to answer for his sin immediately by fighting.

He's been suspended indefinitely, which means the league wants to take some more time to figure out the length of the sit-down.

So cue the obvious reactions to come: If it's too long, it's because Branch doesn't care a fig for poor Owen Sound. If it's too short, Branch is sticking it to Sarnia again for the Top Prospects fiasco.

Neither have any base in reason.

And oh, by the way, did we mention the Sting and Attack are on a collision course for a firstround playoff matchup?

Even before this, it would be hands-down the most compelling series of the bunch.

But the bottom line is no one really knows how to define head hits and punishment much better than we did when Kootenay Ice defender Brayden McNabb only got a one-gamer at the last Memorial Cup for decking Attack star Joey Hishon, the Colorado Avalanche first-rounder who has yet to play since the incident.

This year, we have been programmed, in part, by the OHL to brace ourselves for something in the 10-game range, though the same questions as always remain -- does it matter if the guy who was checked turned at the last instant, ducked, turtled, cut to the middle or simply didn't do enough to avoid the hit?

That's where everything turns to that familiar grey shade.

Did this look like a dangerous hit? Of course.

Could Yakupov have done more to get out of the way? Nobody can say that for sure.

Are there going to be more instances like this when fighting is removed from the junior game? Well, we'll see.

There's a temptation to watch the video clip over-and-over and slow it down to a micro-fraction to try to capture the point of impact.

But that doesn't always guide you to a satisfactory conclusion.

There are also times in this league when a player isn't suspended because the camera angle wasn't very good and the video proved inconclusive.

We're still not at the point where we can watch a hit and say, "That should be 10 games" or, "That should be nothing."

The one thing everyone can agree on is it's a shame both of these guys have to miss any time.

Because he's been out so much this year, there's little chance Yakupov will be named the OHL's most outstanding player. The Red Tilson Trophy should end up going to either Ottawa's Tyler Toffoli, Sudbury's Michael Sgarbossa or London Knights goalie Michael Houser.

Still, it's difficult to find another player in major junior hockey who had, under the circumstances, a more impressive season than the 18-year-old Yakupov. He operated all season without his linemate and former first overall pick Alex Galchenyuk -- finally due to play his first game Wednesday against Saginaw -- came out of the world junior grind injured, played hurt and was suspended two games by the league for missing the Top Prospects Game festivities in Kelowna.

There's little doubt what Yakupov has meant to the Sting. He's been the familiar face on a team that re-made itself twice through heavy roster shuffling -- once last summer and again before the January trade deadline. When Yakupov suits up, Sarnia has won 24 of 42 games. Without him, the Sting are 9-23.

The Attack feel the same way their heart-and-soul Halmo.

But there's only one definite in on-ice collision these days -- it's better to be the receiver than the giver when your fate rests in the hands of the disciplinarians.

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