OTTAWA - A phone call of apology from Steve Downie has earned the Philadelphia Flyers prospect some understanding from Dean McAmmond but not from the rest of the Ottawa Senators.
McAmmond was in good spirits Thursday, laughing and joking with media while discussing the frightening incident in Tuesday's pre-season game in which he was knocked unconscious by a vicious hit from Downie.
The play has earned Downie wide condemnation from around the NHL and the match penalty he received brings with it an automatic suspension and review. League officials have yet to make a ruling.
"He called and I called him back," said McAmmond. "He just kind of reiterated what he said on TV, that he didn't mean to hurt me.
"I'm going to choose to believe it and I think he's sincere."
Few others around the Senators were as charitable.
Head coach John Paddock - unhappy about losing the veteran centre indefinitely while he recovers from the effects of a second concussion in the past four months - issued a plea to the NHL to punish the 20-year-old Downie in the harshest way.
"I think for the good of Steve Downie, he needs to be suspended for a long time," Paddock said. "Take (hockey) away from him so hopefully he remembers."
Early in the second period of a game the Senators eventually won 4-2, Downie took a run at McAmmond as the native of Grand Cache, Alta., circled the net in the attacking zone. McAmmond had passed the puck and was watching the play when the Flyers winger levelled him with a high hit.
McAmmond was knocked out and was removed from the ice via stretcher before he was taken to hospital for testing and eventually released. He still bore the remnants of the encounter - a split lip, scratched nose and a mouse under his eye.
"Actually, I feel pretty good considering," said McAmmond, adding he also has stiffness in his neck. "It was pretty excessive, I guess."
Paddock felt it downright crossed the line and the difference between that hit and some of the others that have made headlines in recent months was intent.
The coach praised Downie, a native of Newmarket, Ont., who had a distinguished career in the Ontario Hockey League and with Canada's junior team, but thinks he's a danger to have around, regardless of whether or not he makes the Flyers' final roster.
"He got knocked down with a clean hit by Christoph Schubert (earlier in the
shift) and he lost it," Paddock said. "I think the kid is the kind of player that every team in the league wants, but you've got to have control.
"If he's not going to be able to control himself in a normal situation, then you're no good."
It's the third concussion of the 34-year-old McAmmond's career, but second in a short period of time.
McAmmond was knocked out by a high hit from Chris Pronger of the Anaheim Ducks in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup final in June and missed the rest of the series.
"People say I've got concussion problems," McAmmond said, "but I don't have concussion problems. I've got a problem with people giving me traumatic blows to the head, that's what I've got a problem with."
Even after a day off Wednesday, other Senators were still steamed with Downie. They're hoping the league throws the book at him.
"I hope the league deals with it the right way and sets an example with this guy," said right-winger and resident enforcer Brian McGrattan. "You can't take shots like that. It could have been career-ending. You could kill a guy with a hit like that.
"You can get away with it in junior, but you won't get away with it in this league, not for long. I say he should get 20 games ... 15-to-20 games."
McGrattan wasn't concerned that his comments following the game, when he threatened to take revenge on Downie when they meet next, could earn him a fine from the league.
"I don't beat around the bush," he said. "I'm not going to be a guy that gives you cliche after cliche. If I have something to say, I'll say it. At least I'm telling (Downie) I'm going to do it. I'm not going to blindside him."
The teams face each other for the first time in the regular season Nov. 24 in Ottawa.
McAmmond declined to get into the discussion over the length of any possible suspension for Downie, preferring to let the league handle it.
"He's just a young kid. I understand what he's trying to do, but it's the way he went about it I don't agree with," said McAmmond, who can remember sitting on the bench to start the period and waking up later on a training table, but nothing in between.
He's since seen the hit and was grateful that he escaped in as good a shape as he did since players were falling over him and around him in the melee that followed.
"I was lifeless there and I'm pretty thankful that nothing more serious happened there," he said.
McAmmond admitted to following the puck instead of looking out for a hit, but, around the net, that's what a player's supposed to do.
The incident reignited the debate over whether or not the NHL needs to make contact to the head an automatic penalty, like the Ontario Hockey League has, and McAmmond said the incident highlights the need to do something about head shots before there's a more serious injury.
"The timing of this whole think couldn't be better. We watched a video in training camp," he said. "Here's a situation where a player pretty much checks off all the things we don't want to happen and here it's happened."