Drugs, violence have no place in hockey

MIKE KEENAN

, Last Updated: 9:10 AM ET

With their Stanley Cup aspirations now toast, the New York Islanders ultimately paid the price because of irresponsible actions from two of their own players.

First off was the Chris Simon hack at the head of the New York Rangers' Ryan Hollweg late in the regular season. The ensuing suspension ended Simon's season and showed that violent acts like stick swinging incidents simply won't be tolerated in the National Hockey League.

Secondly was the poor decision-making on the part of defenceman Sean Hill, who flunked a test for performance enhancing drugs and received a lengthy suspension announced prior to Game 5 of the Isles first-round series against the Buffalo Sabres Friday night.

In both incidents, these players exhibited bad judgement and cost the Islanders the services of a pair of significant cogs.

There is just no room in the game for such brutal voilent acts or for players who use drugs.

The NHL has been quite silent on the Hill suspension and the appeal -- it is suspected there likely was one -- by the player to the original test results. A lot of the chatter surrounding the entire issue, as a result, has been primarily speculative.

The NHL obviously feels the need for confidentiality in this matter.

But the zipped lips being exhibited by all the parties involved has led to growing public perception questioning the timing involved here.

What happens, for instance, if Hill had failed the test back during the regular season? Even if time was needed to hear an appeal or grievance, is it fair that he would still have been able to play in his team's first four post-season games?

It even runs a bit deeper than that.

What about two teams like the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs, who didn't make the playoffs and have to watch them on TV? How wrong-done-by would they feel if it were to ever be discovered that they were squeezed out of a post-season berth by an Islanders team using a player who had failed a test and was still playing despite having used drugs?

If that were the case, the entire process would be in dire need of a thorough review.

These are all theories, of course, but ones that are being kicked around more and more.

There also have been more than a few eyebrows raised that the suspension was announced just before Game 5, which the Sabres won to eliminate the Islanders.

I'm assuming the league did its due diligence but the question remains: Was Hill suspended right away after failing the test? If not, why?

On another note, the Detroit Red Wings took a 3-2 lead in their first-round series against the Calgary Flames yesterday with a chippy 5-1 win, leaving the Flames facing elimination in Game 6.

If the Flames hope to extend the series in front of their home fans, they had better be more disciplined and stay out of the penalty box.

Tempers ran high yesterday as the Flames continue to have problems with Tomas Holmstrom, who seems to be in Miikka Kiprusoff's face at every opportunity.

The Flames can not allow themselves to be distracted by Holmstrom the way the Atlanta Thrashers were by the Rangers' Sean Avery. Both these players can cause an opponent to lose focus very quickly.

Besides, the Flames have some big bodies. There is nothing stopping them from planting them right on Dominik Hasek's doorstep either.


Videos

Photos