Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

Columns

July 10, 2011

Ice code? Better the devil we know

LOCKPORT — He’s 6-foot-3 and weighs 215 pounds. As a Peterborough Pete, he was suspended by the Ontario Hockey League for 20 games for his hit to the head of a Barrie Colts’ forward. In 2010, he was charged with assault after fight outside of a downtown Windsor, Ontario bar.

 In the 2011 World Juniors, he was suspended for two games for his hit to the head on a Czech defenseman. The power forward played for Don Cherry’s team in the CHL Top Prospects Game and put top prospect John Tavares out of the game with a shoulder injury. In April, he was suspended four games for an intent-to-injure penalty.

Zack Kassian, the 13th overall pick in the 2009 NHL draft, sounds just like what the Buffalo Sabres ordered.

On Saturday morning, I went to Niagara University for the Sabres developmental camp to watch the young prospects scrimmage and get a look at the Kassian devil. The 20-year-old native of LaSalle, Ontario fit right in. There was no mayhem and fans at the Dwyer Arena saw some pretty good talent.

As an anti-hockey expert, I always listened and observed more than pontificated during hockey games. I used to wonder about the hockey code and if there is one.

Prior to the Sabre era, a pal and I would hop on the Seneca Street bus and watch the 1950s Buffalo Bisons at the Aud. I never skated, but loved the watch the world’s fastest team game. When a fight broke out on the ice, a third player entered the fray. However, I was disappointed. I thought the third man was there to break up the fight, but he joined in to make it two against one.

We didn’t do that in sandlot baseball. We broke up fights — or stayed out of it.

I got used to two-against-one hockey tradition and when the Sabres came to Buffalo I was not surprised to see the glorified Bobby Orr be the third man in a fight for the Boston Bruins. After the game, Orr put together mouth full of f-words to complain.

As an anti-hockey expert, I wondered why players were allowed to crush a defenseman against the boards when he went to touch the puck for an icing. I wondered why the referees didn’t call interference when a defenseman pushed a forward over the blue line to cause offside.

What was I thinking? A hockey expert told me that forcing the offside was a smart play. Who cares if he was impeding an opponent who did not have the puck?

The code? I get it. You can break their heads but don’t hurt their feelings. Fighting is part of the game and not personal. Don’t embarrass another player after you bloody his face. Hockey players are sensitive on the inside.

Buffalo needs a Zack Kassian if just for a balance of power.

Contact reporter Bill Wolcott

at 439-9222, ext. 6246.

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