by John McCauley
March 20, 2004
(TORONTO) -- His name reverberated throughout the Air Canada Centre as 19,449 fans chanted "Belak, Belak, Belak ... ."
Toronto Maple Leafs' tough guy Wade Belak was exchanging blows with Colorado Avalanche pugilist Peter Worrell. Both behemoths fired shots back and forth during the first period of Toronto's 5-2 win over the visiting Avalanche, Saturday night.
The evening changed dramatically in the second period for Belak, who having one of his best games as a Leaf, when he lost control of his stick and struck Ossi Vaananen over the head. The Avalanche defenceman wasn't injured on the play, but Belak received a five-minute major penalty and will face a league review. He is likely to be suspended for the incident.
|This game was full of the extra activity. |
(Graig Abel Photography)
Colorado scored both of their goals during Belak's penalty. Ed Belfour was given a minor penalty to put the Leafs down two men when the Avalanche capitalized on its second scoring opportunity.
Belak didn't talk with media after the game. In his defence he was expecting contact and when it didn't occur lost his balance and the stick swing appeared to be the after effect. It wasn't an intentional attack certainly, but that doesn't mean he isn't responsible for his actions.
The subject of violence in hockey reached its pinnacle just a few weeks ago after Avalanche forward Steve Moore suffered a concussion and a broken neck because of Todd Bertuzzi's much-replayed attack. Belak's high stick is severe but it can't be compared to that incident. It's simply very different circumstances.
Pat Quinn agreed with the referee's decision to eject Belak from the game. What wasn't settling well with him is the way the Leafs seem to be getting the lion's share of calls going against them, especially over the last four games.
"It wasn't a very good penalty," Quinn said. "We certainly deserve some (of the penalties) but you can't continue to kill penalties off at that kind of time and expect to win games.
"This is an emotional game. That's why people come to watch the Maple Leafs because of our emotion. You don't work 82 games to sit in the bloody box."
It's the inconsistency that causes the most trouble for the coach. If it's a call at one end it has to be at the other no matter what time during the game the infraction occurs.
The Leafs have to get a handle on the penalties or they will not be involved in the long playoff run they expect.
NOTES: Brian Leetch tweaked his knee in the third. It doesn't sound that serious. ... Ed Belfour recorded his ninth 30-win season of his career. Tomas Kaberle had a strong game after sitting out in Philadelphia Thursday. Mats Sundin cracked the 30-goal plateau for the 11th time in his career.