Ciccarelli was perfect stitch in time for NHL to make statement

Phil Jackman

December 16, 1991|By Phil Jackman

In typical fashion, one might argue, the NHL really blew it regarding its decision in the Derian Hatcher-Dino Ciccarelli case. For years the league has been screaming about the seriousness of hockey sticks being raised up in the vicinity of heads and faces as guys go careening around the ice at breakneck speed, right?

A little more than a week ago, in a game between the Washington Capitals and Minnesota North Stars, Hatcher whacked Ciccarelli in the area of the left eye and, upon investigation, there was no hint of it being accidental. The words coming out of the league office were "deliberate," "vicious" and "extremely reckless."

Making the incident even more damning against the 6-foot-5, 225-pound Hatcher is the 5-10, 180-pound Washington winger didn't even have the puck when assaulted. Ciccarelli suffered a multi-stitch laceration just under his left eye, he still has headaches and, possibly, further cheekbone damage.

Hatcher got a 10-game suspension, which he begins serving Dec. 21, so he can have an extended holiday vacation obviously. Strangely, most hockey people are surprised at the length of the suspension. Sure, hockey's a tough game, but how insensitive can you get?

This incident plus the one a while back that saw Pat LaFontaine of Buffalo end up with a broken jaw as a result of a high stick are far from rare. Earlier this season, a player was suspended for backing off, measuring his victim and taking a full-fledged chop at his head with his stick.

In any of these cases, a suspension for the rest of the season followed by a review for reinstatement would have gone a long way toward players becoming far more responsible for their actions with the almost-lethal weapons they wield. Instead, light penalties are forgotten before the week is out.

Can it be that the savaging of Teddy Green, who had his skull caved in by a stick, never happened and we have no real proof of what can transpire on the ice when tempers flare and subhuman behavior becomes part of the show?

* I'm shocked. Not only that, I'm insulted, offended and hurt. What is this world coming to when no less a personage than the president of an organization suggests, nay, commands me to act in a less than forthright manner?

Susan O'Malley is president of the Washington Bullets and, in her zeal to get one of the team's players elected to the NBA All-Star Game, she proposes that visitors to the Capital Centre should do the following:

"Vote for Michael Adams. Vote for Pervis Ellison. It's not only important who you vote for, but also who you don't vote for. Avoid giving votes to a player who might be in close contention with our player."

In other words, following the O'Malley plan, the All-Star Game in Orlando next February could end up with no Michael, no #F Mailman, no Patrick, no Mr. Robinson and the rest of the guys headed for the Olympics next summer.

Vote early (and often), Sue suggests in the team newsletter, so attention will be brought to Bullets players' names. As for the team, she says, "We will only put ballots out at games that are attended by true Bullets fans. No Celtics games. No Detroit games. If they want ballots, they can visit the Garden or the Palace. Our ballots are for Michael and Pervis."

Rigging an election, imagine. What does Ms. President think this is, Cook County, Ill., not the capital of the free world?

It would come as no surprise if Susan was manacled and hauled off to the hoosegow any moment, for we all know All-Star voting is totally on the up-and-up and has never been tainted by scandal, manipulation or ballot box stuffing.

If found guilty, the league wouldn't have to think hard to come up with a fitting punishment: a mild tongue-lashing would suffice, considering she already has to watch the Bullets all the time anyway.

* Best line heard over the weekend was Los Angeles Lakers general manager Jerry West responding to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar thinking about making a comeback: "Question is, could Kareem come back with the same fire and determination to compete he had before?"

Uh, when before, high school?

* Now that Riddick Bowe has made it to the top of the rankings by beating such men as ex-sparring partner Elijah Tillery, who first got disqualified, then out-and-out quit in their second fight last Friday, the Bowe camp is screaming it's deserving of a title shot.

The sorry part of the whole situation is, according to the rules of the fight game's laughable sanctioning bodies, the claim is fully justified.

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