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Proteau's Blog: 'Sweet' revenge has soured NHL

Believe me, there's nothing I'd like less than to write about another incident of senseless NHL violence. But the Predators and Dallas Stars have forced my hand.

Once again, an NHLer (Dallas' Stephane Robidas) was removed from his place of work on a stretcher this weekend. And once again, it all started thanks to the league's deeply-ingrained revenge mentality that will not permit a skilled player to be hit without immediate and often heinous retribution.

Watch for yourself: Preds pest Jordin Tootoo hits Mike Modano with a clean check and Robidas swoops in seconds later with his fists up, ready to drive them into Tootoo's melon.

Unfortunately for Robidas, Tootoo could see (and, more likely than not, sense) the Stars would be coming for him, and so he swung around with a haymaking punch that knocked the Dallas defenseman out cold.

If you think I'm blaming the victim here, you're mistaken. I'm blaming the mindset that deems it necessary for Robidas to charge in wildly and open himself up to a potentially catastrophic injury, and that also applauds Tootoo for “defending himself”.

And make no mistake – it is a culture, not a series of perfectly natural, wholly uncontrollable actions and reactions, which leads to disgraceful scenes like the one in Nashville Saturday night.

Consider what Preds coach Barry Trotz said about the incident:

"Toots obviously hit their top player,” Trotz told the Dallas Morning News, “and the current response in hockey is someone has got to get over there and defend your honor.”

Did you catch that? The current response in hockey. Not the only response in hockey, or the proper response in hockey. The current response. Meaning, there are other ways to deal with seeing your best player actually take a hit.

Ways like, waiting for the officials to call a penalty. Ways like, awaiting supplemental discipline from the NHL. Ways like, winning the damn game.

Here's the ultimate hypocrisy: the pro-revenge crowd will undoubtedly defend Robidas coming to Modano's aid, yet in the next breath they'll bemoan the NHL's dwindling level of physicality.

You can't have it both ways, people. If you want hockey to be a physical game, you simply cannot allow players to get their boxers in a knot and serve as insta-judge-and-executioner when someone actually gets hit.

Whatever the case, it was the latest in an increasing line of ugly nights for a great sport. And worst of all is the way Trotz summed it up:

“It's just a normal hockey play,'' he told the Nashville Tennessean.

Yeah, a normal hockey play. Tell it to Stephane Robidas.


please explain while during the Tootoo/Robidas fiasco why Mike Modano wasn't penalized for his one handed slash towards Tootoo's head. Simon was penalized 25 games and Modano gets a pass not even a 2 minute penalty. Can you say Double Standard., or is that for Colin Cambell to say.

- carole lehman

How dare a player go to defend one of the vital parts of his team. He goes over and says words to Jordin Tootoo who follows his words with a punch to the face. If Robidas and Tootoo had their gloves off, this punch would have been acceptable. A player such as Robidas coming over and talking to Tootoo is a lot less deserving of any violence than any act of aggression. As far as I have seen, Robidas did nothing out of the ordinary when he went to Tootoo. The "sweet revenge" you speak of had not been enacted. Nothing had yet been done, and the greatest cheap shot artist in the league took it upon himself to live up to the billing which he provides for his team.

- Jonathan Young

Lets see. Is it really all that bad what tootoo did? He delievers a clean hit on Modano. Robidas comes to hit him from behind, Modano slashes him from behind, and Tootoo had to protect himself. And yet you wish to blame just Tootoo? Sheesh. Level the balances.

- Josh

Enough is enough. Have there ever been as many ridiculous, intentionally caused injuries over such a short period of time in the NHL before? In any sport? It's just disgusting and getting absolutely ridiculous. If your best player is hit, then he takes it! Just like every other player who is hit! I can understand to a degree a guy going after someone for a cheapshot on their star, but something like this hit or Armstrong's hit on Koivu, these good clean hits, why should the stars be exempt from getting hit? Wanting to get someone back for a hit should mean hitting them cleanly at another point in the game, when they have the puck, or, better yet, scoring on the powerplay! A few weeks ago I was a guy who figured these things will happen every once in a while, it's no big deal, but my mind is changed, and this sport I love is really starting to disgust me. There's no other word for it.

- Alex

If it does end up that Tootoo gets a suspension, then Modano definately needs one as well. The refs called penalties on Robidas and Tootoo at the game. End of story. But what about the stick incident with Modano? Is he above the rules? Why is his actions not under review? Or is he excused because he is a "superstar?" All three of the players have some credit in the entire episode.

- JO

its inevitable when a star takes a hard clean check someone has to pay...maybe if the stars in this league didnt carry a purse and wear a dress it wouldnt be such a problem...when a whiner like peter forsberg get hits he cries to anything wearing a striped jersey yet hes responsible for more stick work and dirty play than anyone in the league....but when he does it its because he's a fiery guy and a great competitor..maybe the leagues strs should take a page from vinny leacavalier's playbook...if you think someoens taken advantage of you drop your gloves and fight them..but alas the visor most of the stars wear makes it akward to fight doesnt it...if the nhl really wants this type of injury to subside make helmets optional never saw this type of act 30 years ago for the simple reason that you yourself were vulnerable to the same action...with the helmets and all the padding players have lost that respect for each other that kept them from swinging thier sticks like a lumberjack

- robb cutting

What this article fails to mention, although accurately depicting this senseless revenge mentality, is that whether or not Tootoo's particular hit was clean, the man tries to injure someone on every shift. I watched the back to back red wings/nashville series, and not only did Tootoo throw one of his surprise punches to the face on Bootland and then refused to fight him the following night, but he tried to injure the wings defenders every time he got on the ice. Schneider just barely Tootoo flying at the speed of a missile from the blue line and launching way off the ground and nearly throwing himself through the glass. If Schneider's head was there, he would have been hospitalized for sure. Having the center ice package, I've watched several Nashville games this year and this man is dangerous and a serious threat to the integ rity of the game. While I agree with Adam there seems to be a fundamental problem with the leagues attitude towards revenge, there's also a fundamental problem with headhunters like this guy.... it's one thing to finish all of your checks and be a scrapper, it's another to try and kill every person you see.

- ryan

I can't believe the NHL is even considering punishing Tootoo. Anyone would put up their fist if someone was coming at them like that.

- Fadi BouSamra

Fair is fair ? ? I was in front of the play at this game. Dallas was tired and had less than 3 minutes to go in game. Tootoo hit clean against Madano with a solid and legal check. Robidas reacts back to Tootoo. Tootoo stands his ground. Modano then slashed Tootoo with full stick behind the head. Tootoo gets 4 min. in box, Robidas gets stretcher and Modano gets off clean and sweet.... Top player did win. If REF calls one penalty, then they all should be called. No one is an excpetion!! With a veteran player like Modano hitting Tootoo the way he did, he should be expecting some time off the ice also if it all comes to that. Sorry to see anyone get hurt, but picking on one and not another is not cutting it.

- Gerri D.

You come in charging full speed, you should do so with your head up and ready for what is coming. This was no sucker punch. Modano trying to Simonize Tootoo's head afterwards was a sucker punch. And the owner of the Stars wonders why the Preds and their fans did not recognize Modano after 502. He should not have even been on the ice to score the goal. He should have been tossed. By the way, your counterparts at the four letter place said the crowd was chanting "Modano is a baby." Not so. It was "Modano is a sissy." A chant that has been exclusively aimed at Detroit's Chris Chelios.

- brian watts

I wasn't going to comment, but then I watched a full video fo the event. And, instead going negative on either a) Jordin Tootoo's brashness at not deciding to fight b) Mike Modano's rather vicious one-handed slash or c) Stephane Robidas' almost-hit from behind. Instead, I'll add a positive note and give kudos to Paul Kariya. He was the only Nashville player with the guts to show that he actually cared about Robidas' status.

- Josiah Hunter

Excuse me, but is there any rules that prevent en enforcer to hit a man who play on the first line ? Does a rule says : " you just allowed to hit a second, third or fourth liner !" Bad mentallity : Men, I hear some colour comentators fuming 'cause nobody went after Cam Janssen after he injured, in his dumb and usual way, Kaberle. The hit on Modano was clean, the slash to the head of Tootoo (much ?) was not. And i must think that Robidas was not going just telling Jordin how much he was wrong to do what he's paid for ! Plus, Stephane impale himself on Tootoo's fist, more than anything. Did Tootoo overreact, definitly yes. But, when you have less than a second to protect yourself, you do what your instinct dictate you. I'm sorry for Robidas, but there' s no reason , the diminutive Inuit sould be suspended or fined, for what he's done, without any premeditation

- Jerry Terriere

While it is not hard to realize that there is a dangerous trend going on in the NHL, wherein 'senseless violence' has been on the rise, especially in recent weeks, I am apprehensive about the Tootoo/Modano Robidas situation. First, I do not condone the reaction of Jordin for punching Robidas as he approached from behind, but I do condone this 2-on-1 fight and firmly believe that assessments of a 'double-standard' favouring superstars is accurate. While it did not result in 20 stitches to Tootoo's face, it is clear that Modano sought to injure (the same as the Simon incident), and he will not receive any punishment. Second, I do agree that there is a 'revenge mentality' in the NHL requiring brawlers to defend their stars. Fighting is a part of the game, and it is an aspect embraced by the players (want proof, see the Senat or/Sabres brawl where Ottawa and Buffalo players who were not throwing punches had their arms around each other... no solidarity?). Nevertheless, as fighters have been decreasing in the new NHL, it is surely natural that their position and the role they play will be questioned.

- Mick Scow

From behind? Oh puhlease people, get a grip and or watch the clip. Robi was coming to take on Tootoo, they are similarly built and same sized. They were facing one another before "Toots" swung. Robi wanted Jordin to dance and leave Modano alone. Mike did swing his stick, AT JORDIN'S BACK. Folks, get an anatomy book, that does not mean taking off his head. Right or wrong, I'm not saying. I'm just saying Mike wanted Tootoo away from a fallen teammate and DID NOT BACK DOWN when Jordin obliged. Tootoo is a punk, has always been a punk, and will continue to be a punk. Modano, while a Stars star, is not immune and should have been called for the swing. Personally there are more things that I felt were inappropriate starting with the "*insert player name here* you suck" chants to the failing to recognize history being made in their presence. It all sickens me.

- Kimberly

I can hardly believe people are comparing Modano's one-handed slash to Simon's infraction. The two are night and day. Should Modano have been penalized? Sure, but the situations are completely different. To me, there is no obvious intent to seriously injure on Modano's part - otherwise he would have used two hands when performing the stickwork and the hit from behind on Tootoo just prior would have been more forcefull. Also, Tootoo should have kept his GLOVED hand down and taken Robidas' charge like any other player has in the past 1) hit the opposing team's top player 2) opponent comes charging in to defend 3) gloves come off, NOT 1) hit the opposing team's top player 2) punch opponent who wants to defend that top player in the face with a gloved hand. Tootoo, as usual, showed his dirty side. The guy is a goon and a coward.

- Alex S

I've watched this a bunch of times, and the punch thrown by tootoo is worse than what Simon did to Hollweg in my opinion. Watch Robidas head snap back as he gets hit; he was not going to cross check Tootoo in the head, he was putting his arms up to protect himself. Granted, Modano did swing his stick at Tootoo with a full windup, but you can tell he slowed his arm and hit him on the pants, where at least there is some padding. Tootoo saw Robidas coming, and the punch is awful. Robidas in no way was ready for it.

- Obie

I was at the game. What was Tootoo supposed to do? Just let Robidas beat the crap out of him? For a clean hit? That's crazy!!!!!! And then Mr. Perfect Modano takes his stick in a full force hit right on Tootoo's back and gets no penalty, no slap on the hand - NOTHING. I heard on the radio this morning - all Tootoo did was turn around and raise his arm up - yes, with a fist and a glove (but he didn't have time to drop it) - if the guy had been taller, he would have hit him in the chest. If the guy had been shorter, it would have glanced off of the helmet. It is absolutely crazy to act like this was senseless violence by Tootoo just because the guy happened to be the perfect height for Tootoo's hit to connect at the perfect spot to knock him out. You say "tell that to Robidas." But I'd like to know what you'd have said if it had been the Predators player instead of the Stars player laying knocked out cold (or worse) on the ice. Robidas had alot more in mind and was going for Tootoo in the back - remember - Robidas did get assessed a penalty for charging. The only reason you're making out that Modano did nothing wrong is because he's a "star" - yes, pun intended. The Preds have been the #1 team in the league for most of the season - or have you forgotten how to read the standings? But still can get no respect from the rest of the league - or the reporters obviously. And all the Stars' President can do is whine about how we voted against the schedule. Yeah - because it's stacked against us. But WE won't cheat to win the Cup.

- Beth

i think that you are right in saying that Tootoo was just defending himself because he knew robidas was comming in to "get" him

- Ward

Tootoo being given a 5 game suspension by the league is a totally political and cowardly decision. If Modano is not given a suspension for using his stick as a weapon you can add an injustice. Robidas was given a charging penalty following the fiasco. What was Tootoo supposed to do anyway stand there and take the charge. The league's decision made no mention of that fact and led one to believe Robidas was just skating over to congratulate Tootoo on a good hit. If the league wants to stop fighting in the game hand out suspensions equally, including to the stars.

- bill moore

Just heard about Tootoo's 5-game suspension. He gets five, Modono gets nothing? What a sad joke. The league hasn't got the guts to call it as it so clearly should be. I wonder what will happen when one of the "lesser" players swings a stick over the back of another next time - I'm sure that'll be at least a 10-game suspension...

- mark parker

This punch reminds me of the 1970's basketball fight between Kermit Washington and Rudy T. Rudy was running towards Kermin, and Kermit punched him, hurting him badly. It is lucky for Robidas that Jordan T. had his hockey glove on.

- Al

clean hit on Madono, good although not totally necessay punch, and poor stick work by the ex-captain of the stars...madono didnt deserve to be a "star" in this league on that particular night, hes good goal scorer poor but had poor decision making to swing his stick like that, call out to all players in the league...hitting is a part of the sport, take it like a man or go play beer league

- Andrew Shuff

The revenge mentality usually enters when the officials do not call a penalty. In this case, the hit on Modano was clean- hence, no need to call a penalty. If the ref's arm went up, then Robidas would have been an idiot to retaliate and cost his team a powerplay. In a physical, fast-moving game, emotions will sometimes get the best of a player. But in baseball, they don't debate player mind-sets every time someone gets hit with a fastball. It happens in hockey--- learn to live with it and stop whining about it!!!!

- Dave LeRoy


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