Be inspired, not a headhunter

TIM BAINES

, Last Updated: 7:20 AM ET

Two questionable hits. Two players down and out.

That'll be Mark Bell's legacy as he single-handedly put a big dent in the Senators' playoff hopes on Thursday night.

Full disclosure first. I'm a Toronto Maple Leafs fan, have been since 1967, when I remember them actually hoisting a Stanley Cup --something even the sons of my sons may never experience.

I can't say for sure that Bell's thundering wallop on Daniel Alfredsson was a fair hit. Nor can I say it was cheap. It's subjective. Video replays seem to show much of the brunt came from Bell's shoulder, with his elbow following through.

Alfredsson says it wasn't a blow to the head, but the video seems to suggest it was.

If that wasn't enough, Bell's knee also sidelined Mike Fisher. Knee-on-knee hit. Cheap.

Two big hits, both questionable in nature, in one night? That's nearly as many hits as the Leafs' underachiever has goals (three) this season.

Let's say Bell hit the Senators captain in the head? Isn't the NHL trying to prevent head shots? The NFL coddles its quarterbacks with plenty of rules. Can the NHL not protect its players from fringe players, like Bell, running around like madmen looking to cripple somebody?

"A clean hit," Bell said after the game. "The linesman yelled clean hit, the referee yelled clean hit. It looked worse because he'd just shot (and his head was turned)."

His head was turned all right, but what was Bell hoping to prove -- that the Leafs shouldn't send him to the unemployment line?

I have no problem with playing inspired hockey. Give the Leafs credit for not giving up on the season when all their fans wanted them to quit. But headhunting has no place in hockey.

And what about Sideshow Bob? Another disclaimer. I love Darcy Tucker. And that will immediately make me a public enemy in these parts. But did he really have to flap his gums and wings at Dany Heatley, telling the Senators' sniper that he'd cut him down at the knees?

And wasn't that real classy of Leaf fans to boo Alfie when he was lying hurt on the ice? Geez, how sick is that?

The Leafs are either the most loved or hated team in the NHL. Just depends on who you talk to.


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