What an unbelievably frightening scene it was in Buffalo Sunday night, as the Panthers game against the Sabres was marred by a hideous gash to the carotid artery of Florida forward Richard Zednik that nearly caused him to bleed out onto the HSBC ice.
It doesn’t matter whose skate blade accidentally cut Zednik, or the spooky similarities to former NHL goalie Clint Malarchuk’s experience in the same city, or whether the remainder of the game should have been postponed.
What does matter is, like Malarchuk, Zednik is still with us today – thanks largely to the Sabres’ and Panthers’ medical staff in attendance Sunday. And I hope it makes fans think twice about resorting to the throwaway criticism of pro athletes being overpaid bums.
Clearly, there is a danger to the physical wellbeing of every NHLer, every time they step onto the playing surface. They are indeed handsomely compensated for that inherent risk, but no cheque could ever sufficiently cover the cost of a life lost to happenstance.
Get well soon, Richard.
• I’ve always believed guys like Brendan Shanahan and head NHL referee Stephen Walkom when they said the league’s latest crackdown on obstruction is a process that may take years to properly balance out.
Still, I was at the Maple Leafs/Red Wings game Saturday afternoon, where, at least for a single game, the old, useless, utterly maddening pre-lockout standards seemed to be in effect.
At one point, two Toronto defenders had a pair of Detroit forwards completely pinned against the boards behind the Leafs net for a good 30 seconds. Neither a holding penalty nor an interference call was made against either Leaf.
While I understand players wanting to be allowed to battle for the puck, the NHL simply cannot allow a return to the days when players spent more time scrumming along the boards, their faces and bodies turned away from the nets, their focus more on pushing and shoving, rather than scoring chances.
It made for dreadful hockey Saturday, just like it did a few years ago. Let’s hope it was mere aberration.
• Also of note from that Detroit/Toronto game: thanks to the NHL’s ludicrously unbalanced scheduling system, it was the first regular-season meeting between the two Original Six franchises in more than four years.
If you can find a better example of a pro sports league cutting off its nose to spite its face than that, I’d like to see it. Thank goodness somebody smacked some sense into the NHL and forced them to change things for the better starting next season.
Adam Proteau is The Hockey News’ online columnist and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Mondays and Wednesdays, his Ask Adam feature appears Tuesdays and Fridays, and his column, Screen Shots, appears Thursdays.
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