The day began with hockey news that the NHL was implementing a new supplementary discipline policy for blindside or lateral hits to the head beginning with tonight's games. Many believe that it was Flyer's forward Mike Richard's hit on Florida's David Booth that compelled the league to act.
When asked about the new rule prior to the game, Booth said, "I think it's going to improve the game and make the game safer."
Unfortunately, at the end of the day, we are discussing another potential concussion for Booth.
Early in the second period of tonight's game, Booth skated across the Habs' blue-line with his head down. When he turned and looked up, he ran straight into a solid shoulder check of Jaroslav Spacek. No penalty was called.
Spacek on Booth: "I don't think he saw me. He turned and I was there. Too bad it happened to him again."
Panthers coach Pete DeBoer and GM Randy Sexton felt it was a clean check. But it was still a scary moment as Booth lay motionless on the ice. Booth was helped off the ice and taken to a local hospital for tests and observation. He has already missed 45 games this season with a serious concussion resulting from the Richard's hit.
Coach Jacques Martin said, "Booth is an outstanding young man, one of the better kids I ever coached. It was a clean hit. I hope he is OK."
Many Panthers fans had a different view of the Spacek hit. Some were anxious to lay blame given that Richards had gone unpunished for his hit earlier in the season. But the opinions of others were shaped by Steve Gorten, a Panthers reporter for Florida Panthers and the NHL for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
From his Twitter account, Gorten posted the following messages shortly after the incident.
- "David Booth elbowed in the head by Habs' Jaroslav Spacek early in second period. After lying on ice face down, Booth helped off ice."
- "David Booth taken to hospital after Spacek elbow to his head."
Later, Gorten posted a story to SunSentinel.com. Here's the headline and an excerpt of his story.
Florida Panthers: Booth leaves game after elbow to his head, taken to hospital
by: Steve Gorten March 25th, 2010 | 8:32 PM
Panthers winger David Booth was taken to a local hospital in an ambulance after a hit to the head by Canadiens' defenseman Jaroslav Spacek at 1:10 of the second period of tonight’s game at Bell Center.
Spacek nailed Booth squarely in the jaw with his elbow.
According to Panthers’ spokesman Justin Copertino, the Canadiens’ team doctor, Dr. David Mulder, examined Booth and described him as “alert” and “coherent” before he left the arena.
I'm not sure what Mr. Gorten was watching. His comments are not reflective of what occurred on the ice. Not even close.
As an aside, I thought it was somewhat amusing that this caption appeared below the photo that accompanied Gorten's article. "Patrice Bergeron of the Montreal Canadiens upends Nick Tarnasky of the Florida Panthers during first period NHL action on Thursday, March 25, 2010, in Montreal. (Ryan Remiorz, The Canadian Press / March 25, 2010)"
I'm sure that RDS would approve.
Back to the Spacek hit. Before I'm accused of being a homer, let me remind all that I supported the suspension of Max Lapierre's for four games when he hit Scott Nichol from behind and Georges Laraque's five-game suspension for the knee-on-knee collision with Niklas Kronwall.
Gorten's disingenuous description of the hit only provides ammunition to those who have been reluctant to bring in stiffer penalties for dangerous hits.
Montreal has more than its share of reckless headline writers, agenda-driven media, and tabloid-style journalists. I have spoken out against them. So, in this instance, I am not offering criticism from the perspective of a partisan conference rival.
Instead, it is incumbent on all of us to accurately report what is viewed on the ice and correctly make a distinction between clean, physical hockey and dirty play that is intended to injure. The latter behaviour must be severely punished and minimized without having an impact on the former.
It isn't in the interest of the game when people try to blur those lines.
I wish a speedy recovery and return to the ice for David Booth. His earlier concussion problems mean that the threshold for subsequent ones are lowered. Hopefully, this is not a career-ending injury for a young player with a bright future.