NHL reviewing hit on Leaf

TERRY KOSHAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:45 AM ET

The Maple Leafs could have a clearer idea on Wednesday about the severity of Mike Van Ryn's concussion.

The defenceman, who suffered a concussion, broken nose, broken teeth and a broken left hand on Saturday night when he was crushed from behind into the boards by Montreal Canadiens forward Tom Kostopoulos, will be examined by renowned concussion specialist Dr. Karen Johnston in two days.

"He had headaches (yesterday), and we will have to wait until we see the specialist to maybe get an idea of what the future holds," Leafs general manager Cliff Fletcher said as he took in the Hockey Hall of Fame legends game at the Air Canada Centre yesterday afternoon. "Those things are very unpredictable."

Fletcher said that Van Ryn does not have a history of concussion problems.

Johnston, the go-to expert on concussions, moved her practice to Toronto from Montreal last year.

NHL director of hockey operations Colin Campbell, via email, refused to discuss a possible suspension for Kostopoulos. But the league is reviewing the hit, which happened early in the first period. Kostopoulos received a major for boarding and a game misconduct and briefly was engaged by Leafs defenceman Carlo Colaiacovo, resulting in roughing minors for the two.

Van Ryn was released from Mount Sinai Hospital yesterday morning and went straight to the dentist's chair for root canals.

What is known is that the hand injury will keep Van Ryn out of action for up to six weeks.

Fletcher wouldn't say whether he thinks the check warrants a suspension, though several Leafs said after the game they thought Kostopoulos should be forced to sit.

"I'm not taking the fifth, but I have no take on it," Fletcher said. "I'm not the judge and jury. It's a league issue.

"I do know these hits seem to be happening more often. Going back 10 and 20 years, there never were hits from behind. Players have less respect for others today."

Fletcher had not spoken to Campbell about the incident.

The Leafs embark this afternoon on a three-game trip to Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver. With Van Ryn out, Colaiacovo, Anton Stralman and Jonas Frogren will see an increase in ice time to varying degrees.

The hit, as well as the one by the New York Islanders' Doug Weight on Carolina Hurricanes rookie Brandon Sutter two weeks ago, has pulled the lid off the debate on head shots and whether players really do respect each other less than they have in the past.

Two big-name former NHL players who skated in the legends game -- Mark Messier and Borje Salming -- had interesting views.

"I think there has always been respect," Messier said. "The term 'respect' is loosely used and can be confused with what's at stake.

"Our game is about winning and losing. It's not easy to do the right things all the time. We used to have stick-swinging fights between guys with no helmets. Did they respect each other? If you ask them, they probably did."

Salming, who opened the NHL door from Europe when he joined the Leafs in 1973, endured plenty of abuse.

"I used to get hits from all over the place," Salming said. "Anything could happen at any time in the 1970s. It's not worse now. We have better control over the game. In the 1970s, they didn't have control."


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