Monday, March 17, 2008

Eight games for Pronger

Hmmm, I'm not going to pass too much comment on this one (barely controlling the urge to rant...), other than to say he certainly deserved a suspension, and I am relieved Kes wasn't badly hurt

Pronger: Eight games for Kesler stomp

Duck will be out until Anaheim's final regular-season game

By Jason Botchford, The Province

Published: Saturday, March 15, 2008

DALLAS -- He has become public enemy No. 1 among the Lower Mainland's hockey fans, which is why there will be plenty of people in Vancouver who believe Chris Pronger's eight-game suspension is not nearly enough.

There will be some who are outraged. And maybe they should be.

Only three months ago, Chris Simon, now with the Minnesota Wild, received a 30-game suspension for stomping on Jarkko Ruutu's ankle.

In announcing Pronger's suspension Saturday, Colin Campbell, the NHL's director of hockey operations, seemed to give Pronger the benefit of the doubt.

"In attempting to free himself, Pronger carelessly and recklessly brought his foot down," Campbell said in a statement.

The other possibility is that Pronger wasn't careless at all, that he intended to injure in an act of frustration.

"He got caught up in the moment and acted wrongly," Kesler said. "I know he doesn't like to get hit. I know me and someone else hit him pretty good. He took it out in the wrong way.

"Obviously, the skate blade is the most dangerous part of the equipment. You shouldn't use it on someone like that."

There is a sense in the hockey community -- some who say it publicly, others privately -- that Kesler deserves what he gets.

His style of play, an aggravating, frustrating, punishing mix of forechecking and smack talking, is said to sometimes approach the line of what's acceptable, what's legal. Although he's not a heavily penalized player (only 22 minors this year), he can draw out the worst in his opponents. Several of them, like Pronger, have been driven over the edge in appalling fashion.

"People are going to say what they're going to say but when someone steps on you with a skate, I don't think anyone deserves that, especially in a hockey game," Kesler said. "I guess you can say guys are getting frustrated. Sometimes guys act in a wrong way and they probably regret it later."

Kesler has been the victim of two sickening acts this season which resulted in suspensions. The first came in October when Jesse Boulerice cross checked him across the face. The latest, Stompgate, was only fully revealed late Thursday, a day after Pronger slammed down his skated on Kesler's calf.

Credit goes to eagle-eyed TEAM 1040 colour analyst Tom Larscheid, who brought the incident to light. He was one of the only people to clearly see the stomp, which happened behind the flow of play in Wednesday's 4-1 Canucks loss to Anaheim.

Initially, the NHL decided against suspending Pronger because of the poor video evidence they had to work with. But when new video appeared Thursday night, the NHL re-assessed the issue.

Pronger is considered by many to be one of the league's dirtier players, one who sometimes chooses to hurt instead of check. He has now been suspended eight times.

Watching the video, it's difficult to determine what is harder to believe.

That Pronger would be so reckless just a week after his teammate Corey Perry was inadvertently lacerated by Jose Theodore's skate. Or that Kesler's leg remains intact, uncut.

"I'm just fortunate nothing happened to me and I'm able to keep playing," Kesler said.Ksler said he sees some similarities with Chris Simon's stomp on Jarkko Ruutu earlier this season. Back in December, Simon earned a 30-game suspension for his similarly vicious stomp.

"It doesn't matter to me, the league is going to make the decision," Kesler said.

It's not the first run-in Kesler has had with Pronger this season. In November, Pronger cross-checked Kesler's lower back when the checking-line centre had his arms up after scoring a goal to put the Canucks up 2-0.

Kesler said he won't let incidents like the Pronger stomp influence the way he plays.

"My job is the same night-in, night-out and that's to shut down the other team's best players," Kesler said. "If they're going to act out like that, that's what they're going to do. The league will take care of it."

Pronger is not eligible to come back until the Ducks' final regular season game.

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