Wilson: Habs should take a hit, too

STEVE BUFFERY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:48 AM ET

Maple Leafs head coach Ron Wilson said suspending a player for hitting from behind is all well and good, but he believes the punishment should go beyond a mere player suspension.

"There might be a time to think about the punishment being on the team as well as on the player," Wilson said yesterday in response to the hit Montreal Canadiens forward Tom Kostopoulos laid on Toronto defenceman Mike Van Ryn on Saturday at the Air Canada Centre. Van Ryn, arguably Toronto's best defenceman of late, suffered a concussion, broken nose, lacerated forehead and a broken hand when hit from behind by Kostopoulos, and is out for about a month.

Wilson said the offending player's team should be forced to play short-handed as well in coming games.

"When you get suspended for a hit to the head or a hit from behind, a team (should have) to play with 17 and two," Wilson said. (That would be) a deterrent to a team. Because you can always go out and get another guy who can fill that role -- and it never really hurts that team. Obviously it hurts the team on the receiving end."

Teams generally carry 18 players and two goaltenders.

Wilson scoffed at suggestions that players who are hit from behind into the boards also are responsible for their injuries.

"I know where this is going, everybody's going to say the player is supposed to protect himself somehow," Wilson said. "(It's like), if I shoot you right now, I would say, 'Well, you should have been wearing a bullet-proof vest.'

TAKE YOUR HEAD OFF

"I think the onus has to be on the people who don't have the puck," the coach continued. "We're asking people to make plays, whether you're going into the boards in your own end to get to the puck and make a play, or you're coming up the ice and trying to be creative. I don't think if somebody's going to take your head off you should be just getting rid of pucks and protecting yourself. Imagine what our game would be if that's all we have out there -- where the responsibility is on the people with the puck, rather than without the puck."

Wilson admitted that he encourages his players to finish their checks on the boards and that it's difficult to let up if the player getting hit turns face-first to the boards at the last minute. But the player, he said, doing the hit has to take responsibility and be punished.

"Whether (Kostopoulos) apologizes, whether he buys Rhino a new car, or whatever he does, he should still be punished for the action," Wilson said. "That was a Hall of Fame game (on Saturday). I can't imagine how many kids across Canada would have been watching that game and you if don't punish somebody, what is the message to everybody else? Everybody watches how we play (in the NHL) and this is where it all starts.

"I saw Kostopoulos (after the hit). I read his lips on TV. He was really concerned about Rhino," Wilson added. "But I could go through a list of things in society where people, who are on the receiving end of something, get the blame for the action and you take away some of the responsibility from the doer. I think we have to really look at that in our league."


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