UPDATE: 11 a.m. Sunday morning, Colin Campbell responds to the Daily News below... No word yet on suspension, but if there is one, it's not coming from Campbell.
It isn’t often that an eerie silence overcomes the Wachovia Center – or any Philadelphia sports venue, for that matter.
I can only think of two such instances at a Flyers game: Once, in the 1995-96 season, when Petr Svoboda was crushed in center ice hit at the Spectrum while playing against the Canadiens … and when Eric Lindros was TKO’d for the final time by Scott Stevens and the Devils in 2000.
It happened again on Saturday night, during the Flyers’ 5-1 win over the Florida Panthers.
Flyers captain Mike Richards was skating across the blue line in pursuit of a Panthers break when he blindsided Florida’s David Booth with 2:55 remaining in the second period. Booth, a 24-year-old Michigan State product, had made a pass to the opposite side and just turned at the split second Richards leveled him.
The play was in the middle of the ice – with no boards around to break Booth’s fall. As such, Booth’s neck snapped in the other direction and his face dragged along the ice before his body came to a halt.
You can view the borderline hit in its entirety at the bottom of this post.
Booth was apparently knocked unconscious on impact.
When the Panthers’ trainer got to him, he was face down on the ice with a pool of blood in front of him. The stretcher was immediately called for him. The Panthers’ trainer was assisted by Flyers doctor Gary Dorshimer and Booth was carefully turned over and placed onto a stretcher.
We were told Booth was alert and moving his extremities when he was carted off the ice.
He was taken to Pennsylvania Hospital where he will stay overnight, according to Panthers general manager Randy Sexton.
“They are doing a whole host of tests just to be sure that everything is OK,” Sexton said after the game. “It’s too early to tell exactly the extent of the injuries.”
Now, the debate will rage on as to whether Richards will be suspended by the NHL. He was given a 5-minute major and a game misconduct, which is automatically reviewed by the NHL for suspension.
Richards did not have his arms up during the hit; he hit Booth cleanly with his shoulder. The problem was that Booth could not see him coming.
“I just seen him with the puck,” Richards explained. “I was just trying to eliminate him from the puck. He dished it off. It happened so quickly, it’s hard to explain.
“I don’t know [whether it’s legal]. I was just trying to separate him from the puck and he moved or turned. I don’t have a history of head shots or anything like that. It happened too quickly.”
Richards’ feet left the ice after the impact of the hit but were firmly planted at the point of impact. Holmgren said it is normal for feet to come up during the follow through.
I have mixed emotions on the hit. The way Booth’s body twists and turns makes the hit look gruesome – and the way he hit the ice doesn’t help.
But at the same time, it is a hockey play. Richards makes open ice hits like that regularly – and most of the time, the other player sees it coming and the end result isn’t nearly as bad.
The important thing here is that Booth is OK.
But if I was forced to gamble on whether Richards will be suspended, I would say that he will be. The NHL has been trying to crack down on hits to the head for some time now. Plus, Carolina’s Tuomo Ruutu was just suspended 3 games by the NHL on Saturday morning for his hit to Darcy Tucker’s head – which doesn’t look half as bad as Richards’ hit.
Normally, the NHL's Senior Executive VP for Hockey Operations Colin Campbell would handle a situation like this one. But it will be Mike Murphy, Campbell's deputy, that reviews Richards' case. Campbell's son, Gregory, plays for the Panthers and Colin Campbell said he will recuse himself from anything involving the Panthers to prevent any perceived (or actual) bias.
"I have not dealt with the Florida Panthers because of a perceived issue of conflict," Campbell told the Daily News on Sunday morning. "Mike Murphy has dealt with those issues in the past and if the Richards penalty needs to be addressed further, he will handle it."
It was interesting, though, to see the war of words between the Flyers and Panthers.
Sexton was the first to weigh in when he was quoted just minutes after the hit – during the second intermission.
“I thought it was a late hit and dirty hit,” Sexton said. “These types of hits have no place in the game. I didn't see the hit live. I was making a note on my game report, but I knew when they didn't show the replay it wasn't pretty.”
Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren fired back at Sexton pretty quickly.
“Randy Sexton should watch more hockey games,” Holmgren said. “It was a good hit. Mike Richards is just doing his job there. If you slow it down frame by frame, I don’t see how you can [suspend] him.
“He went to finish his check on a player who had just passed the puck, and he hit him. His feet never left the ice, and it was a shoulder hit. The young David Booth turned his head, it looked like he saw him at the last second, but as he turned his head, his head took the blow. It would have been a shoulder-on-shoulder if not. It’s a physical game, and sometimes those things happen,” Holmgren added.
In reality, the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle of what Holmgren and Sexton were saying on Saturday.
Sexton backed off after the game with “I’m not going to comment, it’s in the league’s hands now.”
He was clearly not in the mood to get into it with Holmgren.
“I’m not going to get into a war of words with Paul Holmgren,” Sexton said. “He is entitled to his own opinion.”
Holmgren said that he usually receives a call or e-mail from NHL's discipline committee pretty quickly if the league is going to review a hit. But Holmgren said that as of 10:15 p.m. on Saturday night he had not received any call.
But that doesn't mean it won't happen.
Remember, it is the weekend. Things don’t happen as quickly… even though the NHL did have all 30 teams in action of Saturday. You can bet your bottom dollar it will be replayed over and over again from the NHL’s War Room in Toronto.
It is obvious that the Panthers were [understandably] shaken after the hit. It took the remaining wind out of their already flat sails.
“The guy is in a vulnerable position,” Panthers captain Bryan McCabe said. “You hope a guy wouldn’t freakin’ cream him.”
"He was in a vulnerable position and Richards knows he's in a bad spot," Keith Ballard said. "That's the same stuff they've been trying to cut and put an end to. He's looking the other way."
The NHL will probably want to act quickly if they want to suspend Richards. The Flyers are back at it on Sunday night at the Wachovia Center against the San Jose Sharks.
Oh, yeah, the game...
DID YOU NOTICE:
- That Jeff Carter’s line – with Danny Briere and James van Riemsdyk – was credited with 20 total scoring chances in the dominating 5-1 victory? Carter had 11 scoring chances and 11 shots. Briere netted 2 goals and an assist in his first 3 point game since Apr. 3, 2009 against Toronto.
- That Simon Gagne broke his 7 game scoreless streak with his power play goal in the 2nd period?
“It’s always fun to get the first one,” Gagne said. “The first one is usually the hardest to get, but it’s been like that for 10 years. Now hopefully those ones are going to keep going in.”
- That James van Riemsdyk netted his first ever NHL goal on a breakaway in the third period? Van Riemsdyk also had a monster effort on Danny Briere’s first goal, digging the puck out from behind the net and feeding Briere in front.
- That Arron Asham scored a goal in his third straight game for the first time in his career? He had scored goals in two consecutive games 8 different times but never turned the trick 3 times.
- That the Flyers peppered Tomas Vokoun with 38 shots? They outshot the Panthers 38-18.
- That it was Cancer Awareness Night at the Wachovia Center?
- That Chris Pronger blocked 8 shots?
- That the Flyers power play was an impressive 2-for-5?
There are approximately 1,050 tickets available for Sunday’s tilt with the Sharks … Richards and Carter are tied for the team lead in scoring with 10 points … Backup Brian Boucher will get the start in net against his former team, San Jose, on Sunday ... How many times was Richards' hit replayed on Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday?