Dirty. Cheap. Needless. Despicable. Those words don’t just describe Tuesday night’s hit on Ottawa Senators forward Dean McAmmond. They describe the man who delivered it – Steve Downie of the Philadelphia Flyers.
He was once the teenaged buzzsaw hockey people gushed over because he twice played for Canada’s gold medal-winning team at the world juniors. He played hard for his country; he played clean and with a purpose.
It’s been the only time in recent memory he’s done that.
For most of his OHL career, Downie was uncontrollable and troublesome. He’s acted like a bully on the ice and in the dressing room with his own teammates. He harassed rookie Akim Aliu with the Windsor Spitfires until the two of them fought twice in a practice. He took outrageous penalties when he played for the Peterborough Petes. Some say his attitude wasn’t much better with the Kitchener Rangers.
Everybody thinks he can tame the wild animal but so far no one has.
Now, at 20, Downie is trying to make the Flyers, which is how he explained his late hit on McAmmond, in which he left his skates to go airborne on a player with a history of concussion woes.
“My game is to finish my checks,” he said before expressing just how truly sorry he was for hurting McAmmond.
Yeah, right. Like Downie wasn’t playing it for the cameras and assembled media, the way he always has.
Here’s what Colin Campbell, the NHL’s director hockey ops, should do: punish Downie with a lengthy suspension (40 games minimum) that applies to wherever he plays, NHL or AHL. Put him out of action for so long that even the Flyers lose interest in him. Do that and it helps remind the players dangerous hits will not be tolerated this season.
If the NHL doesn’t take a hard line then guaranteed someone will, and Downie will get his and a lot of people – sane, rational-thinking folks who aren’t keen on violence in hockey – will say, “Good. The little bastard had it coming.”