Not any more. “What I’m amazed at is a team can be up 6-0 and some of the players on the team that is up are still running guys and doing late hits,” O’Donnell said shaking his head prior to the Ducks facing the Detroit Red Wings Thursday in Game 4 of the NHL Western Conference final.
“It’s gotten bad in the last couple of years. . . . Head shots seem to be more common and late hits.”
Detroit coach Mike Babcock raised the issue of players respecting each other Tuesday night when Red Wing forward Tomas Holmstrom needed 13 stitches to close a gash on his forehead. Holmstrom was slammed into the boards on a tag-team hit from the Ducks’ Rob Niedermayer and Chris Pronger.
“I don’t care how much is on the line at any time, you have to look after the other player,” Babcock said at the time. “When he doesn’t see you and you decide you’re going to bury his head off the turn buckle, that’s a decision you make.”
Niedermayer received a five-minute boarding major and game misconduct for the hit. Pronger wasn’t called for a penalty but on Wednesday the league announced he would be suspended for Thursday’s game.
Brian Burke, the Ducks general manager, disagreed with the suspension. He argued Pronger’s hit was legal and there was no intent to injure.
But Burke agreed some of the old standards players lived by seemed to have disappeared.
“I think there are instances where players don’t show enough respect,” he said.
On Thursday, Babcock seemed to back off a bit on his earlier comments.
“I think the respect among the players is at an all-time high,” he said.
“Sometimes we react in a game in a way that, if you had a ton of time to think about it, that might not have been the best result. But I think the respect factor is there.”
Detroit’s Chris Chelios admits he’s been no angel during his long career. But he’s seen a shift in how the game has been played. He blames part of the trouble on the instigator rule.
“From what I remember there used to be an unwritten rule the tough guys fought the tough guys and the skill players played against each other,” he said.
“The rules have changed that. It’s like the judicial system where it protects the criminals.”
O’Donnell said there are few players in the league who seem to take delight in delivering cheap shots.
“We all know when someone is vulnerable, if the bench door is open or they are in a awkward spot,” he said. “There are certain guys that their eyes light up when they notice a guy is vulnerable.
“I don’t agree with that at all.”
Anaheim’s Teemu Selanne said today’s hockey players are bigger, faster, stronger.
“It’s a very intense game and some bad things happen,” he said. “It’s a tough game but you have to be smart.”
Selanne said respect among players has to be bred in the junior leagues.
“It has to start from junior hockey,” he said. “The coaches have a lot of responsibilities in the lower league to tell them they can’t hit from behind and the hits to the head are dangerous.”
Anaheim’s Ryan Getzlaf, who is playing in his second NHL season, believes there is respect among the younger players.
“Nobody wants to see anybody get hurt,” he said. “If you’re hitting a guy from behind you will hold up a little bit.”
Ducks forward Brad May was suspended for three games earlier in the playoffs for punching Minnesota Wild defenceman Kim Johnsson in the back of the head.
May said hockey has turned more into a business and players are trying to protect their livelihoods at any cost.
“They (the league) have teams playing each other eight times trying to get these rivalries going,” he said.
“Guys have livelihoods and it’s a much larger business than it used to be so there is much more incentive to be in the moment.”