Just a couple days ago, the Atlanta Thrashers faced off against the Florida Panthers at Phillips Arena in Atlanta, Georgia. A few years ago, this game would’ve just been just some game between two cellar dwellers and nothing else. However, both of these teams are now playing very serious hockey. Atlanta is in 5th position in the east and Florida--while only in 13th-- is still very much in playoff contention.
All of those thoughts were pretty much drilled into the mind of everybody watching this game at home, or live. Yes folks, this game meant something. During the middle of the 3rd period, Thrashers F, Ilya Kovalchuk, had managed to squeak by D, Keith Ballard,c and thus propelling himself onto a breakaway, with Ballard closely following.
Kovalchuk’s first attempt at setting that siren off failed, but the puck bounced out right to him off of the rebound left by Panthers G, Tomas Vokoun. That rebound was easily put in the net, and the Thrashers took a 2-1 lead. Now, throughout that entire play, Keith Ballard was breathing down the neck of Kovalchuk and was right beside the net when Tomas Vokoun let in the fluky goal.
Apparently, Ballard didn’t know exactly how close to the net he really was. When he took a good swing at the post in frustration, his stick clipped Vokoun in the head. Not just a near miss, he got him right at the temple. If Tommy didn’t have a goalie mask on, he could’ve died.
After seeing the deadly swipe for the first time, it looks as though he intentionally swung his stick at his own teammate‘s head. You really have to look hard at the replay to see that he was in fact, going for the post. What also doesn’t help Ballard’s cause, is he didn’t even check on Vokoun after he hit him, making it look even more intentional. What likely happened is that Ballard simply didn’t realize that he hit the Panthers’ starting goalie.
As intended and purposeful as it seemed, it was an accident. Now the question that lies in front of us is: What is the NHL going to do about this? Even if it is an accident, there are still many things for the NHL to consider. Swinging your stick at the post with that amount of momentum should be deemed unsportsmanlike, and could possibly result in a suspension of one game.
Looking back at the television coverage, Ballard did leave the game, however it wasn’t specified if he left because of a misconduct penalty, of if the coach of the Florida Panthers had sent him to the room.
It seems that we will have to wait until tonight to see if Keith Ballard will play. The Panthers play the Colorado Avalanche tonight at 7:30 at the BankAtlantic Center in Florida. If it was up to me, Ballard would be assessed a one-game suspension for hitting the post in frustration, not because of hitting Vokoun, that was just an added bonus.
Thank you for reading. If you feel game, drop your own opinion in the comment thread.