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McAmmond on the mend

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Dean McAmmond hopes his pain will be the rest of the NHL’s gain.

The Senators winger has seen the frightening pictures that have been the talk of the hockey world for the past two days, the images that show him being knocked unconscious by a head blow delivered by Philadelphia Flyers rookie Steve Downie during a pre-season game at Scotiabank Place on Tuesday night.

And McAmmond thinks the incident, and the publicity it has generated, can do nothing but help the league’s campaign to rid the game of the type of dangerous head shots that left him with the third concussion of his playing career.

“The timing of this whole (thing) couldn’t be better,” said McAmmond, who spoke publicly Thursday for the first time since Downie’s “excessive” hit. “It makes it even more amplified that there’s a problem.”

Supportive comments from other players around the NHL are further indication, McAmmond added, that “guys are concerned with it. Everybody’s a player, right? They don’t want to be in the situation I was in, getting knocked out.”

Downie, who is facing league discipline, called McAmmond to apologize for the hit.

“I’m going to choose to believe that he’s sincere about it,” said McAmmond. “I would think that, in hindsight, he’s looking at it and wishing that he didn’t hit me that flagrantly.”

McAmmond wouldn’t comment on how severely he feels Downie should be punished, saying “he’s just a young kid (20 years old) and I understand what he was trying to do, but I don’t agree with his thought process in carrying it out.”

Senators head coach John Paddock suggested a lengthy suspension might be the thing that’s needed to put Downie on the right path toward a prolonged NHL career.

“For the good of Steve Downie, he needs to be suspended for a long time,” said Paddock. “I think this kid is the kind of player that every team in the league wants, but you’ve got to have control. To me, for him to be in the NHL when he’s 24 years old, the best thing that could happen is for the league to take what is probably the most important thing in his life away from him for awhile.”

Senators centre Jason Spezza said it’s also a chance for the NHL “to set the precedent, to let it be known that this is not going to be acceptable.”

“As players, we’ve expressed that this is something we want out of our game,” he said. “You’re not only dealing with careers, you’re dealing with guys’ lives … shots to the head just don’t belong.”

There’s no timetable for McAmmond’s return. The concussion is the second he’s suffered in four months – Anaheim Ducks blueliner Chris Pronger knocked him out with an elbow during the Stanley Cup final – but McAmmond is confident he’ll be ready to suit up for the Senators again soon.

“I don’t feel I have a concussion problem at all,” he said. “I’ve got a problem with people giving me traumatic blows to the head. That’s what I have a problem with.”

His teammates are happy to see him back in the building again, where he’s receiving treatment from Senators doctors for shoulder, back and neck stiffness.

“We’re all upset for Dean,” said Murray. “He’s such a quality guy and a character person and when this happens to people like that, you’re upset about it and angry about it. All we care about right now is that he just gets better.”

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