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by Darren Pang / Arizona Coyotes
What's a penalty?

You can stop, rewind, freeze the play and do it all again.

You can watch Shane Doan's hit on Blues forward David Backes in St. Louis in the first game of the Coyotes’ three-game trip time and time again.

It is a hockey hit. It is not a hit from behind, nor is it a boarding infraction.

It is a battle for a puck between two players, and they actually brace themselves, nearly stop, and Doan is stronger on his feet and catches Backes not quite as well prepared for a hit and unfortunately, he gets injured on the play.

It is not the Mike Van Ryn injury. It is not a case where a player is facing the boards and vulnerable, and gets drilled from behind.

It is a hockey hit.

Doan received a five-minute major in a case of overreaction to the far too many bad hits in the game. There should not have even been a penalty called.

In the meantime, veteran defensemen Ed Jovanovski and Derek Morris both get blatant high sticks to the eye area, and there are no calls. In both cases, the puck was close to both players.

From the broadcast booth, it is a much easier game, I understand that.

Here is another issue I have been consumed by.

We know the sticks have "weak points" after a stick on stick, or a blocked shot to the shaft of the stick.

So a player blocks a shot, and the defending player is strong on his stick and the opposing player’s stick snaps, as a result of the puck hitting it originally.

Penalty. For slashing. For slashing? Or for having a stick that is already weakened by a puck? Just because a stick breaks, doesn't mean it’s a penalty.

There has to be some reward for a player that is strong on the puck. You can ask any top player about an opponent that is soft on the puck or a player that is hard on the puck. It is a strength. It is an asset that you have from an early age and likely a big reason why a scout rated you high or even just had you on the radar.

So, why do we take that away?

Just because a player falls down, it doesn't mean it is a penalty on the nearest player around him.

Let's get back to some on-ice hockey sense.

See the play develop. Use common sense. Get the flow back into the game. I personally don't enjoy a specialty-teams game, where the flow and pace gets going and then the whistle blows and 10 guys are on the ice looking around, wondering where the infraction took place. It likely had no bearing on the play anyway.

It is a far more entertaining game when there is constant flow, back-and-forth action, where chances are exchanged.

The honor of battling through checks and sometimes sticks is what separates the soft perimeter player from the guy you want in the trenches in close games. Let's not confuse the two types of players.

Call what the penalty is. Not what you think it was, as you may not have seen anything but a player falling down. They have big cushy pads on. They can handle it.

The other part about honor, or lack of it, occurred in Chicago on Sunday with two seconds remaining in a 7-1 win by the Blackhawks. There was a scrum in front of Hawks goalie Cristobal Huet, and Enver Lisin gets poked at by Brent Sopel, and then Kyle Turris and Hawks rookie Kris Versteeg pair up.

Both have their gloves on, and then Versteeg pops Turris square in the nose. Versteeg said after the game that Turris, the 19-year-old, 180-pound offensive-minded kid "challenged" him. He’s kidding, right?

I spoke with Turris about it. Not a chance he challenged him.

Wayne Gretzky wasn't amused with Versteeg, and in a 7-1 humiliation with two seconds left, it wasn't impressive and didn't leave The Great One with a good impression.

The Coyotes next face Versteeg and the Hawks on Jan. 6 in Phoenix.

You can be sure the Coyotes will be ready for that game and not just for what happened at the end of Sunday’s game, but for the lack of preparation to begin the game.


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