As a hockey fan who grew up in Toronto and spent a fair amount of time in Monreal, it's always struck me a bizarre to read the Ottawa sports media. Put simply, they're homers. Not just the play-by-play guys or radio call-in types, who are homers in every city, but the actual journalists and other media who we're supposed to take seriously.
I've made the joke before that the most important qualification for an Ottawa sportswriter is the ability to type with pom-poms in your hands. Well, here's Bruce Garrioch, probably the town's best known sportswriter, in today's Ottawa Sun:
Alfredsson was the victim of a vicious but unpenalized elbow to the head by Bell, a former 67's captain, with less than three minutes left in the first period.And Garrioch again, in another article:
(The scrum at the end of the first period) could have been avoided if referees Don Van Massenhoven and Kelly Sutherland had penalized Leafs LW Mark Bell when he elbowed Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson in the head late in the first... (a)fter what appeared to be a blatant attempt to injure...(Emphasis added.)
Now you could argue that Garrioch isn't completely wrong here. A wee bit over-dramatic, sure, but you could make the case that the Bell hit was borderline. After all, he blindsided a guy with his head down. It was a shot to the head, even if the elbow never did come up. And besides, maybe we should object any time a fourth-liner hits a star player, especially if the play results in an injury.
Clearly, that must be Garrioch's point. If the roles were reversed, I'm sure he'd be just as critical. If (in a purely hypothetical scenario) a Senators tough guy laid out an opposing teams star player on a virtually identical hit, Garrioch would be first in line to condemn him too, right?
I mean, he certainly wouldn't make a fool of himself by going on TV and saying things like "it's a hockey hit" and "I don't think it's a dirty hit", eventually getting so worked up that the hosts had to cut his segment short.
Well done Bruce. Very objective work, as always.
Meanwhile, just in case anyone thinks this is limited to Garrioch or to the Sun, here's the Ottawa Citizen's Allen Panzeri. Watch as he tries to out-Garrioch Garrioch by going into full-on hysterics over the Bell hit.
Alfredsson was knocked out of the game after a vicious elbow to the head from former Ottawa 67's player Mark Bell in the first period... The hit went unpenalized, the officials obviously having missed it... Bell levelled Alfredsson with an elbow and nearly knocked him out. None of the four officials on the ice saw what was clearly a vicious intent to injure. Alfredsson lay crumpled on the ice for several minutes before making it back to the bench... Bell should have been thrown out of the game, but wasn't even given a minor. As a result, the period deteriorated from there.(Again, emphasis added.)
It's safe to assume that, immediately after writing his article, Panzeri collapsed into a puddle of great racking sobs.
I've looked for the articles where Panzeri is equally outraged by the Neil hit, but haven't been able to find a single one. Weird. Must be some sort of Google database error.
For reference, here's both hits side-by-side. Click on them to view them at full-size. And be sure to let me know if you can find the "vicious elbow" in the Bell hit.
Update: As expected, the league has already ruled that the Bell hit was legal. Apparently Colin Campbell forgot to put his Allen Panzeri Decoder Glasses on before watching the tape.