by Steven Zeltser
Chris Simon’s two handed slash to the face of Ryan Hollweg during the Rangers most recent 2-1 defeat of the Islanders can only be seen for what it was, despicable. Especially, when fighting is accepted as a legitimate and necessary part of the game, there is never a need for that kind of violence against another hockey player.
Ryan Hollweg is a bit of a pest. He primarily plays a clean, hard hitting game, but very early in his career developed a reputation for the occasional late hit or hit from behind, because he finishes all his checks. This alone does not give a player like Chris Simon who built his reputation on his ability to protect his teammates the right to act in such a cowardly fashion as to attempt to separate Hollweg head from his body. Make no mistake, an inch or two lower and a serious injury may have been inflicted on the play. I would be writing about a prison sentence not a fine and suspension.
If you have seen him through his young career you know Ryan Hollweg is a hard working and honorable player who does his best to help his team while playing within the rules of the NHL. His game may not be as far along as say Chris Simon’s, who has learned over his career to chip in the occasional goal much like he did in last night Islander loss, but what his fellow players will tell you is that Hollweg would never turn his stick on another player not matter how hard he was hit or how questionable the play may have been. That’s what his fists are for.
Chris Simon actions may put what most diehard hockey fans will say is an unnecessary magnification on the physical play in the NHL. It’s unnecessary, because hockey is unlike any other professional sport. There is a written rulebook that governs the game play, which you can purchase at any store that sells hockey gear, but there are also unwritten rules that the casual fan may not know. There are only two ways you can gain knowledge of this set of rules. The first is by playing the game of hockey the way it was meant to be played. Where toughness combined with skill and honor create what makes hockey such a great sport to watch and play. The other is to experience the game over decades of observing the self policed game within the game.
Anyone exposed to the game of hockey knows that at its core intimidation plays a large part in the game, but there are unwritten rules as to what a player can do to either create or counteract this intimidation. Dropping the gloves is acceptable. Using your stick in an attempt to injure another play, which could not only end his career, but inflict a fatal injury, is completely unacceptable. It is for that reason that Colin Campbell, Senior Vice President and Director of Hockey Operations in charge of disciplinary action should impose a harsh penalty for Simon’s actions. There is no room for this kind of play in hockey and it is Campbell’s responsibility to send a message not only to the players, but to inform the casual fan, who the league feels is important to their success, that this kind of action is not tolerated.
The officials on the ice made the call and ejecting Simon for intent to injure, awarding the Rangers a five minute major penalty, which rightfully so became the turning point of the game. In a hard fought game by both teams where goaltending was spectacular an idiotic action in what can only be called a fit of insanity cost the Islander the hockey game. The Rangers reacted and justice was served for Ryan Hollweg as Michael Nylander took a feed from Jaromir Jagr and setup Petr Prucha for the power play game winner.