|Dirty hits by Flyers lead to comparisons to those ol' Broad Street Bullies|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 02 November 2007 08:59|
He dropped his gloves, busted and bloodied some chops, absorbed his own share of jabs and could have written a mortgage check to the league for all the minutes the Philadelphia Flyer spent in the penalty box. One thing the enforcer of the 1970s-era Broad Street Bullies never did was put another player on a stretcher.
``Oh my God, no. Never,'' Schultz said. ``We didn't really hurt anybody. The only time you could hurt anybody was with your stick.''
Nearly three decades after the Bullies roamed the ice in their heyday and won a pair of Stanley Cups, the muscled-up moniker that always maintained a loose affiliation with the franchise has popped up again. But these Flyers keep their gloves on, instead delivering punishing hits to the head in three sickening instances that stained their remarkable turnaround from worst team in the league to the top of the Atlantic Division.
Steve Downie started it all in the preseason with a 20-game suspension after a high hit to the head of Ottawa's Dean McAmmond. Taken off the ice on a stretcher, McAmmond only was cleared to return this week.
Jesse Boulerice was next, earning the longest single-season ban in league history for striking Vancouver's Ryan Kesler across the face with his stick. Kesler returned the next game.
Then Randy Jones clobbered Boston's Patrice Bergeron last week. The Bruins forward is out at least a month, and Jones got a two-game suspension.
``We're not going out there trying to do anything outside the rules,'' Flyers coach John Stevens said. ``Those are things that can't happen in the game. We've never denied that. We don't want that in the game any more than anybody else does.''
But even ``The Hammer'' was stunned at the ferociousness of the Downie and Boulerice attacks.
``Are they doing things should never be allowed in the game? Yes,'' said Schultz, declining to label the Flyers' players goons. ``A couple of those were very violent hits.''
The Flyers shouldn't have been too surprised.
Downie, a top prospect on pace to open the season on the Flyers roster, has a history of fighting and suspensions. In 1998, Boulerice was suspended for one year by the Ontario Hockey League for violent stick-swinging. He went to the AHL the following season and was ruled ineligible until mid-November. He also was charged with assault to do great bodily harm less than murder in the incident and pleaded no contest to a reduced charge of aggravated assault.
Boulerice and Downie have not played this season, and the AHL agreed to honor the NHL suspensions. The Flyers waived Boulerice, but brought him back.
The three vicious blows in five weeks have put the NHL on notice that the Flyers have toughened up, even at the expense of being labeled a dirty team. The Flyers arrived in Montreal for their game Thursday night to find a local sports section with a headline, ``Goon Culture Lingers In Philly.''
he overhauled the roster.
``Teams that work hard and compete, win. That's evidenced by Ottawa and Anaheim,'' Holmgren said. ``Is it a coincidence they were in the Finals? I don't think so. You want to be a hard team to play against in terms of your effort. Last year, we got outworked way too often. That was an area that needed to change. That has nothing to do with playing tough.''
What has happened goes beyond playing tough. The Flyers have earned an unwanted stigma as an out-of-control team, a reputation they're grown tired of defending and one they feel worked against them on the Jones hit.
``You don't want to be in a situation where you're getting guys suspended all the time,'' Flyers captain Jason Smith said. ``The two bigger suspensions were something you don't want to see happen in the game. But Jonesy's play, I think you could watch that game and see quite a few incidents that are very similar like that, but just didn't end up with the guy getting hurt.''
Although Stevens and the rest of the organization denounced the first two brutal blows, Jones' situation is a bit murky. Both players were battling for the puck when Bergeron turned his back to Jones moments before he was hammered face-first into the boards. Jones barely had a second to react and rammed into a player who had put himself in a vulnerable position.
``What hockey player goes toward the boards and thinks there's nobody else on the ice that might not hit him?'' Schultz said. ``What did he think?''
Still, it was a scary situation in Boston. The 22-year-old Bergeron lost consciousness, left the ice on a stretcher and was taken to the hospital. He suffered a concussion and a broken nose.
Bruins head coach Claude Julien called the incident a ``a dirty hit.''
``I don't think there's any place for it in the game, that's for sure,'' Bruins forward Shawn Thornton said. ``Bergy moved the puck and was turning away. I think there was a second there to hold, and there was no holdup. There was a lunge more than a holdup.''
The Bruins certainly don't think it's fair they're missing a player critical to a postseason push while Jones misses just a pair of road games.
``The more I look at it, I think it looks worse when I see it over,'' said Bruins center Marc Savard.
Jones apologized after the game and emphasized this week at practice that it was a routine play gone horribly wrong.
He avoided a stiff penalty because he didn't meet the criteria set by NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbell for a long-term suspension: Was the head intentionally targeted; did the player launch himself by leaving his feet to hit a player in the head area; was the hit was delivered to an unsuspecting opponent; the lateness of the hit; and past behavior.
``I know around the league it's been a topic,'' Jones said. ``But I wasn't trying to injure him or hammer him from behind or smash his head. I was just going in to finish my check.''
AP correspondent Mike Shalin in Boston contributed to this report.