TORONTO The NHL has new criteria for dealing with hits to the head, and Steve Downie discovered Friday just how severe the punishment will be this season.
Colin Campbell, NHL executive vice-president and director of hockey operations, nailed the Philadelphia Flyers forward with a 20-game suspension for his vicious hit on the Ottawa Senators' Dean McAmmond in the second period of a preseason game Tuesday. McAmmond left the ice on a stretcher and was in hospital for a day with a concussion.
Campbell met with Downie and Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren Friday morning at the league office in Toronto. While Holmgren and Downie were waiting to board a Washington-bound flight at Pearson International Airport, Campbell informed the GM that his player was gone for 20 regular-season games, as well as the team's final preseason game Saturday night, as long as Downie is on Philadelphia's 23-player roster.
Downie, 20, will also forfeit $63,102 (all figures U.S.) of his $585,000 salary.
"My reaction is that it seems like a lot of games, but Colin Campbell is in a very difficult position and we respect his position and his judgment in this case," Holmgren said. "We will live with it.
"I was with Steve during the hearing and was with him after the verdict. He is very upset and understandably so. He understands the ramifications and he is prepared to live with this decision."
Downie said: "I'm disappointed with the outcome but I will take this in a positive way. I will work hard to get in better shape and be ready when my suspension is lifted."
In late July, Campbell met with several coaches, general managers and owners to analyze a problem area of the game: hits to the head. They looked at 52 separate clips of different scenarios and came away with criteria in handing out supplementary discipline. A video was produced for each team to view examples of the hits that Campbell wanted eliminated.
Specifically, there are four factors Campbell's office will look at when a hit to the head occurs:
-- When a player targets an opponent's head;
-- When a player launches himself by leaving his feet to hit a player in the head;
-- When the hit to the head is delivered to an unsuspecting opponent;
-- The timing (lateness) of the hit.
An additional factor in considering whether discipline is appropriate is whether the player is a repeat offender.
"The severity of the suspension is because it was a pass, pass, pass, pass of all the criteria, with the exception of a repeat offender," Campbell said. "This was exactly what we talked about, targeting the head and launching oneself ... He crossed the line."
Downie has a long history of on-ice discipline problems in junior. He was suspended six different times in his past two Ontario Hockey League seasons, including when he cross-checked Windsor Spitfires teammate Akim Aliu in the face during practice because of the latter's refusal to participate in a rookie hazing episode on the team bus.
Downie was suspended five games for that incident and ordered to attend counselling. But he refused to rejoin team after suspension and was subsequently traded.
"When they come to our league, he has a clean slate and we did not consider what he had done in any other league," Campbell said.
Downie issued a public apology after the game on Tuesday and told McAmmond that he was sorry via a phone conversation the next day.
It is no certainty that Downie will even make the Flyers. It is between Downie and Stefan Ruzicka for an open spot on the roster because veteran Scottie Upshall will miss at least the first month of the season with a broken wrist.
The Flyers don't meet the Senators until Nov. 24 in Ottawa. Campbell said he discussed with Senators GM Bryan Murray the revenge comments made by Ottawa tough guy Brian McGrattan this week.