In a sport where players and fans prize bonecrushing hits, everyone pretends to be surprised when one of those hits sends someone to the hospital. Let the hand wringing commence.
When the Flyers' Mike Richards blindsided the Panthers' David Booth last night, the media instantly began revving up their outrage. "Suspension!" they call. "Villain!" they cry. And why not? A brutal hit like that, which ends with a player unconscious in a pool of his own blood, appears to be a graphic illustration of what's wrong with hockey.
But let's rein things in for a moment. Before you join the lynch mob outside the Wachovia Center, there are a couple things to consider:
•These stories are always going to be played up when it's a promising young player who's injured. If that's, say, Dominic Moore being carted off, and not superstar-in-the-making David Booth, we're not seeing nearly as much outrage today.
•Also feeding the hype is the fact that this happened at the hands of a Flyer. It's been almost 40 years since the birth of the Broad Street Bullies, but that label's stuck. There's always a tendency to blame something like this on a culture of dirty play in Philadelphia, even if it's an isolated thing. But it's fun and easy to dredge up past incidents, and try to fit this in as part of a pattern.
Also worth noting: Richards didn't leave his feet for the hit, and none of this would have happened if Booth hadn't had his head down - that's a youth hockey mistake.
Booth didn't suffer any neck injuries, and remains in a Philadelphia hospital for observation. Let's all hope he recovers quickly, suspend Richards for a game or two, and move on. It's fucking hockey, people.
UPDATE: No suspension.
Florida Panthers, David Booth Receive Heavy Blow In Defeat [Miami Herald]
Hit Mars Flyers' 5-1 Victory Over Panthers [Philly Inquirer]