Tuesday, October 18, 2005

The indefensible

I probably shouldn’t be surprised that if anyone was going to try and defend what Martin Havlat did Saturday night it would be Ottawa Sun writer Don Brennan, a/k/a the laughing stock of the Ottawa sports media. And believe me, in this city, full of hack scribes, that’s saying a lot.

Brennan routinely plays devil’s advocate in his “columns”, taking a stance contrary to the one the rest of us do. If we say the sky is blue, Brennan will yell it’s red, dammit! By now I’ve learned to mostly ignore him and his idiotic rantings, because most of the time they seem insincere and usually reek of an attempt to drum up controversy just for the sake of it.

So, having said that, I feel somewhat stupid for even spending one second on this guy, but every now and then, he says something SO dumb, SO moronic, I can’t help myself. Yesterday was one of those days, as we were treated to yet another Don Brennan op-ed.

The title of his latest ridiculous piece: “Havlat did what he had to do”

Basically, Brennan rationalizes that because he’s small and often targeted by the other team’s tough players because he’s a skilled player, Martin Havlat's actions are understandable. He even quotes an anonymous ex-NHLer who says that Havlat had few options to respond to Hal Gill’s rough stuff.

"You've got that pain from the net in your back .... I'm pretty sure it doesn't feel very good, and you've got that big ape on you," said the ex-player. "You've got no leverage, you're pissed off and the only thing free is your feet.

"I'm not condoning his actions, but I'm not exactly sure what other recourse he had."

I would say I’d like to know who exactly this ex-player is, but we can probably assume he doesn’t exist and Brennan is just making him up to support his case. After all, if a former NHL player sorta says it’s okay (and yes, he is condoning his actions), then it must be. They know the game better than you and I ever will (an absurd notion).

Brennan also shows his own character by saying he would do the same thing if put into “Mach 9”’s position. Why does that not surprise me?

And before you accuse Brennan of being a homer, and only defending Havlat because he’s a Senator, you must understand this is the same writer who essentially wrote off the Sens’ chances of winning the Stanley Cup this year because they have Dominik Hasek in net. He even went so far to say that the team would’ve been better off with Patrick Lalime agin. Even though it’s early, so far Hasek has been sensational, Lalime has transformed into Andre Racciott in St. Louis, and, surprise surprise, Brennan has been proven wrong. Somehow I don’t think he’ll ever admit it though.

Brennan isn’t alone in the Martin Havlat Sympathizers club. A thread was started at the Sens board on the Hockeys Future Boards asking if Havlat was a dirty player, and a lot of the responses were that he wasn’t. Apparently, doing dirty things doesn’t make you dirty, and many noted most of his incidents have been reactionary. But if someone punches me, and I shoot them dead, does that mean I’m not a murderer?

Let me put it in simple terms: there is no defending what Martin Havlat did. At all. It was reprehensible.

I like Martin Havlat as a player. I think he’s one of the most talented, exciting players in the NHL, and has proven it with his play this year. But unfortunately, he also seems to lack that part of the brain that says “wait, don’t do that, it’s stupid”. He kicked Eric Cairns the last time there was hockey, crosschecked Mark Recchi in the face because he was hooking him (I guess he had no other options there too, huh Don?), and has now kicked someone again.

What other options did he have? Fight back seems to make sense to me. Punch, slash at his legs, whatever. Kicking should be an absolute last resort. If Gill was on top of him reigning blows onto his face or gouging his eye the way Dale Purinton did in the pre-season or intentionally slashed him in the face, then maybe, MAYBE, I might listen to these arguments that he was just defending himself. I doubt I’d buy into it, but I’d be willing to hear it.

Hal Gill was roughing Martin Havlat up. That’s it. He was crosschecking him in the chest and pushing his face. I’m sure it didn’t feel good and I imagine it’s not a fun position to be in, but Havlat’s life was not in danger, nor was he on the verge of serious injury had this gone on for another 20 seconds. Kicking him in the balls should not have even entered his mind as a course of action, and the fact it not only did but that he apparently thought it was appropriate shows what kind of maturity as a player he has.

Was the suspension too harsh when you consider Andy Sutton drove Darcy Tucker’s face into the glass, seemingly with every intention to hurt Tucker, and only got four games? Maybe. Even though it sucks as a fan of the team they’ll be without one of their best players for five games, when I put my objective onlooker hat on, five games seems very appropriate.

Martin Havlat has to be taught a lesson. These kind of things cannot be tolerated. As I said Sunday, he’s lucky that none of his boneheaded moves have hurt anybody yet, but if he keeps it up, it will happen eventually. He’ll run out of luck sooner or later. What then? Will these same defenders rush to his side, or vilify him with the rest of us, acting as if they felt that way all along?

Havlat always says he doesn’t mean to hurt anyone. He didn’t mean to hurt Mark Recchi, he didn’t mean to hurt Hal Gill. That’s all well and good to say, but when you turn around and stick someone across the teeth, you are trying to hurt them. When you kick someone in the groin with a skate on your foot, you’re trying to hurt them.

I’d be shocked if one of his teammates, like captain Daniel Alfredsson, or coach Bryan Murray or GM John Muckler, or all three, didn’t sit down with the talented Havlat and tell him in no uncertain terms that events like this cannot continue to happen. They not only reflect poorly on him, but on the organization as a whole.

If you recall, it was Havlat’s crosscheck on Recchi that angered Ken Hitchcock and the Flyers and resulted in that big brawl in Philly towards the end of the year. A game that saw a new NHL record set for penalty minutes. Havlat wasn’t forced to answer for his actions, because Jacques Martin had Havlat serve one of the penalties the team took. He was safe and tucked away in the penalty box while the rest of his teammates were fighting for their lives against a pretty tough club. Something tells me Murray wouldn’t be so kind if that same situation arose now.

In Ottawa we defend our team as passionately as any other sports fan. I’ve argued with Leaf fans until I’m blue in the face and there have been more times when, at games between the two teams, an altercation nearly erupted than I’d like to admit. But there has to be a line drawn somewhere.

This is that line.


At 6:58 AM, Blogger Andrew said...

I think you fall for the kicking taboo a little to much. Sure it's slimey, but it's less dangerous than boarding, which is a pre-meditated action and is penalized with a measly two minute minor.

Kicking is no worse than a lot of the rough stuff in the game - people just happen to have a psychotic reaction to it, which is really odd when you think about it and compare it to other "lesser" hockey crimes.

At 7:52 AM, Blogger just'cuz said...

Kicking, if it's done like a soccer kick, is less dangerous than a lot of other infractions. But kicking with the blade of the skate is a lot MORE dangerous than most other infractions. The skate blade can be as sharp as a knife! If a kick with a blade cuts an artery or blood vessel, the result could be fatal.

The penalty (suspension) is severe but it's deserved.

At 8:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Kicking taboo" and no worse than other rough stuff on the ice? Man, I hope I'm not playing men's hockey against you! I'd put kicking and eye-gouging at about the same level in terms of most reprehensible thing you can do as a player. Havlet was kicking with the skate boot, and not the blade, but if Gill moves the wrong way then there's chance for serious injury. As for Brennan, I'd like to add Hugh Adami of the Citizen in there as one of Ottawa's most annoying scribes.

At 9:31 AM, Anonymous David Johnson said...

I wonder if Don Brennan would defend opposing players should they decide to kick Zdeno Chara because Chara is so big and physical.

At 1:35 PM, Blogger Michael said...

"Mach 9"?

It looks like Havlat needs a "Mach 3" razor!

No pun intended. Or is that where he got the nickname?

At 3:09 PM, Blogger CMcMurtry said...

The problem with the "he was kicking with the boot, not the blade" argument (and I was disappointed to see Brian Kilrea make it on OTR yesterday) is that it assumes Havlat was that much in control.

Unfortunately, most of the people who make it also say he was off balance, etc. So if he was off balance, should we assume that he can perfectly aim his feet while off balance?

And he wasn't just kicking in the leg either. I've seen some now say it was the "midsection", but it sure looked like it was in the balls to me.

At 4:05 PM, Anonymous Roddie said...

is that it assumes Havlat was that much in control.

But Craig, I think you assert the same thing when you say:

"What other options did he have? Fight back seems to make sense to me. Punch, slash at his legs, whatever. Kicking should be an absolute last resort."

I don't see how that decision process is any easier than picking between boot and blade.

At 4:25 PM, Blogger CMcMurtry said...

First off, who is Craig?

Secondly, that's ridiculous.

My point is, if he is as off balance as they say, can he really properly aim his foot? Not that he's unable to decide which to kick with. If he's off balance, then it's very possible, despite whatever his intentions are, his kick might not go the way he planned, and the skate part might make contact.

At 4:49 PM, Blogger Grampapinhead said...

You can forget about Brian Murray addressing the problem. He was in Detroit long enough to let everyone know he is 'All Hat and no Cattle'. A responsible GM would have had Havlat on waivers before bedtime. Totally unforgivable offense, and you can't change the stripes on a tiger. This guy makes tiger williams look like a pussycat.

Man, you sure got a lot of commenters that have no respect for the game.

At 5:16 PM, Anonymous Roddie said...

Craig is what Jes called you here.

Now, we travel over to a rat-infested hellhole of Ottawa, where evil Senators roam. Hockey Country’s Craig McMurtry exposes even more of Sean Avery’s jackassedness.. Why is Craig chained to the ground? Well, he committed the great sin of spreading the mispronunciation of a Slovak surname.

I knew it was Chris, but then I read the Carnival yesterday and thought, "Oh, it's Craig."

Sorry. :-)

At 8:34 PM, Blogger aquietgirl said...

No pun intended. Or is that where he got the nickname?

Mach is the speed of sound .. well the ratio of an object's speed to the speed of sound in air. So if you're travelling at mach 9, you're travelling 9 times faster than sound. Sorry for the science lesson in the middle of this, but I had this conversation with someone else -- "Yeah, well, at least we don't nickname our players after shaving tools ..."

You can forget about Brian Murray addressing the problem. He was in Detroit long enough to let everyone know he is 'All Hat and no Cattle'. A responsible GM would have had Havlat on waivers before bedtime.

1. Bryan Murray isn't the GM.
2. Havlat? On waivers? Are we talking about the same player?

At 8:50 PM, Blogger Grampapinhead said...

I never said Murray was the GM, just mentioning Havlat not going to get any guidance from Murray, as suggested. Muckler should have him on waivers. Havlat's got a history of this crap and he will get one of his teammates severely injured from retaliation.

At 11:35 PM, Anonymous David Johnson said...

Why put him on waivers when you can trade him and get quality in return. A dumb GM would put him on waivers, a good GM would try to trade him. But he is gone after this year anyway since there is no chance the Sens can sign all their players and stay under the cap.

At 12:27 AM, Blogger CMcMurtry said...

I wouldn't say there is no chance, but it's unlikely.

At 8:44 AM, Blogger Andrew said...


You misunderstand me. I never said kicking was acceptable or should ever be done. I said that kicking is a taboo in hockey, and is penalized dispoportionately when compared to other equally dangerous offenses.

If we're going to hand out lengthy suspensions for kicking (without injuring the kickee) then we should do so for crimes like elbowing, boarding, tripping (in a lot of cases), (intentional) highsticking and so on. All of these infractions can lead to serious injury as well, and all have ended players careers at one time or another.

If you think we should treat these infractions as minor while heavily penalizing kicking, then you're extremely inconsistent in your logic.

At 10:54 AM, Anonymous David Johnson said...


For the infractions you mention, when intent to injure is determined to be the case, then the player is equally punished. Remember, Havlat only got 5 games because he is a repeat offender. His initial kicking incident got him 2 games, and if he does it again, next time it might be 10 games. Other intent to injure incidents where no severe injuries occurred also result in 2 game suspensions for first time offenders.

At 8:49 AM, Blogger Jeff J said...

Andrew - a slight kick can result in a horrific injury. It takes quite an elbow to result in a horrific injury.

A lot of the focus seems to be on the fact that the kick was directed toward Gill's ...er 'nadular' area. If he's wearing his cup, his boys would be well protected. However, that skate blade was damned close to the femoral artery, which is not well protected at all.

At 11:54 AM, Blogger Andrew said...

Slashes to the hands/wrists and back of the legs are not particularly nice, and in the heat of the moment can connect more forcefully than intended. End result: usually 2 minutes in the box.

High sticks can take out eyes. End result: 2-4 minutes in the box.

Elbows can break facial bones. End Result: 2-4 minutes in the box most of the time.

A kick, injuring the player or not draws an immideate suspension.

All this crap shuld be out of the game - not just kicking.... penalize it all equally. How quick do you think elbowing would disappear if players were to receive suspensions & fines for it? Pretty fast, wouldn't you think?


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