While the Capitals were holding hot-dog eating contests and beating the Leafs last night, the Battle of Pennsylvania was being waged. The Penguins lost to the Flyers, 4-3, but that wasn’t the big story in either town. No, the big topic of discussion was Georges Laraque’s hit on Steve Downie. To no one’s surprise, perspective on the incident has been wildly divergent between the two cities. Here’s Pittsburgh’s take:
When Laraque reflected on it, he saw an incident in which he pushed Downie, not cross-checked him, and did so with absolutely no malice, let alone intent to injure. “If I want to hit somebody from behind,” Laraque said, “he’s not going to get up.”
After witnessing Laraque’s fights from the past, I’m inclined to agree with him. He doesn’t mess around. In the name of fairness, however, here’s Philly’s view:
“It was a very, very dangerous play,” Flyers coach John Stevens said. “Laraque outweighs him by 80 pounds [about 40, according to the rosters]. He was five feet from the boards. It was extremely dangerous.”
Laraque should and likely will be suspended by the league, but there is a bigger problem that only the players can solve. This lack of respect for each other should disturb every player in the game.
Nice embellishment of Laraque’s weight. Does that mean Downie should only fight guys who are in the same weight class as him? Somehow I don’t see Stevens complaining when the shoe’s on the other foot. And where’s that “lack of respect” argument when Downie’s busy inflicting similar “very, very dangerous” hits on other players? It’s interesting how only now Stevens thinks that such hits are “vicious.”
Let’s not forget that Downie wasn’t even hurt. As the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette notes:
Downie did, in fact, get up after a brief time on the ice and, aside from the final 2.6 seconds of the period, did not miss any playing time. At least not until 5:34 of the third period, at which point he was assessed a fighting major and game misconduct for not having his sweater tied down during a bout with Penguins rookie Ryan Stone…”He got up and fought in the third, so I’m not worried about it at all,” Laraque said. “He was fine. He was laughing. He did that job perfectly. He drew a five-minute power play. That was his job, and it worked.” Downie’s take on the sequence was that “stuff like that happens,” and that “we were both going in the corner for the puck.”
So if Downie doesn’t have a problem with it, why should anyone else? It’s not like the guy was decapitated or even injured, though you’d think he was by Philly’s reaction. Far be it for me to side with Pittsburgh on anything, but it’s refreshing to see Downie get a taste of his own medicine, no matter how minor.
Watch the hit here: