Flyer Downie and out

BRUCE GARRIOCH, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:14 AM ET

The NHL, as Steve Downie learned yesterday, can throw a pretty nasty hit itself.

The league suspended the Flyers rookie forward for 20 games for his hit on Ottawa's Dean McAmmond in a pre-season game on Tuesday at Scotiabank Place.

"This issue was our angst over the summer," said Colin Campbell, the NHL executive vice-president and director of hockey operations who meted out the punishment. "People don't think we have been tough enough on head shots. We worked all summer with players and coaches and (GMs). We showed them a video of 52 hits on what we're talking about and we showed the video again to every player in training camp.

MCAMMOND PLEASED

"If you leave your feet, if you target an opponent's head, if you hit an unsuspecting, or target a player ... There is no doubt there was intent here. This hit contained all five of the criteria."

McAmmond said he was pleased with the result.

"I feel the ruling is strong enough to prevent these things from happening in the future," said McAmmond. "At this point, the NHL needs to make a statement to try to protect players and I hope that a suspension of this length will do that."

Downie was taken aback by the length of the ban.

"I'm disappointed with the outcome but I will take this in a positive way," Downie said in a statement. "I will work hard to get in better shape and be ready when my suspension is lifted."

If Downie is sent down by the Flyers, he would be automatically ineligible to play for the team's minor-league affiliate, though an AHL spokesman said yesterday that the league could review the case.

If he starts the season with the Flyers and serves the full 20 games, he will be eligible to return Nov. 23 against Washington. The next night, the Flyers face the Senators.

Senators GM Bryan Murray, who spoke to Campbell about the incident on Thursday, supported the NHL's decision.

MCGRATTAN ADMONISHED

"We feel the number of games of the suspension is appropriate and the NHL has sent the correct message to address the severity of hits to the head like this one," said Murray.

Meanwhile, winger Brian McGrattan's statement that he'd seek retribution against Downie the next time they play on Nov. 24 in Ottawa did not go over well with Campbell, who told Murray that kind of talk won't be tolerated.


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