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The Phaneuf Hit on Okposo



Ahhh Crap (with a capital C).  Phaneuf destroyed Okposo in an exhibition game last night.

Follow my logic here – I’m not sure if I’m mad at the hit or not:

If I say I’m mad at Phaneuf for crushing him in an exhibition game, I’m going to get responses like “you can’t turn off competitiveness” and “once guys are in a game, it’s become their nature to take advantage of guys with their head down”.

But that’s just not the truth.  As a guy who’s played in plenty of exhibition games, I can tell you those games don’t matter to the guys who already have guaranteed roster spots.  Those guys just aren’t playing with the dial set to “kill”.  The dial is set to “just get through this”.  They need to play to feel the pace, get that game cardio up and get their feet wet.  It’s a joke to them.

So I don’t really get this hit.

It’s not like they’re interdivisional rivals (or even in the same conference), so what was that all about?  Just being awesome?  Teeing up on a guy for kicks?

I know Opo has to have his head up there, please don’t leave that comment, I know.

Guys will still hit guys in preseason play when the opportunity presents itself; it’s hockey.  You have to remember how contact feels after a summer of shinny.  But you don’t need to put a guy in a dangerous situation. 

Here’s the one reason I’m not that upset with him for the hit:    I think he did let up a bit.

He drops his shoulder, sure, but I think this could’ve been worse.  He could’ve put more into it.  So in the end, I’m not sure what to think of the hit.  “Unnecessary” comes to mind though.


Here’s where hockey blogging about ex-teammates gets tough.  I played with Morency (the guy who jumps off the bench to grab Phaneuf).  He’s the nicest guy on the planet.  He works harder than any teammate I’ve ever had.  But he plays like a donkey.

It boggles my mind that the Isles continue to keep this guy in their system.  The fans love him, of course.  And I love him.  Pascal, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry.

But you play like a donkey.

Pascal is tough for a smaller guy (it helps that he’s jacked).  He’s the definition of agitator.  He runs guys, chirps from the bench during his extended stays there (sometimes entire games), then fights anyone who’ll fight him to justify his spot on the roster.  To his credit, he’s making a hockey career out of what he’s got.

You’d say he’s the consummate team guy, sticking up for every little indiscretion against his linemates, if it wasnt motivated by the complete opposite concept from “team”. 

He’s not skilled enough to play in the AHL without being a fighter and an irritant.  So he has to create opportunities to show that he’s doing something out there.  He’s the guy after the whistle face-washing guys just hoping something will come of it so he can do what he does best.

He takes penalties behind the play, and does stuff like jump off the bench to fight guys that would punch the accent out of his French.

I like Pascal.  He’s a fun, sincere guy to BS with, the nicest guy to the callups in the dressing room, and the first to lend a hand.  But he’s kinda bad at hockey, and plays a role I don’t think is necessary.  Sorry bro.

If you want to watch him in action, there are about 15 of his fights on YouTube.  I’m just running this one cause I was on the ice at the time and bummed cause one of my three shifts that period gets cut short.


35 Responses to “The Phaneuf Hit on Okposo”
  1. Pete says:

    thank you! thank you! thank you!

    i won’t get on either side of this, but, man, hearing a voice from someone who’s played the game and knows these guys really makes me appreciate your blog even more.

    the kitten pics, not so much…

    seriously though, thank you.

  2. Mike says:

    My vote is for unnecessary hit. I always worry about players getting injured in exhibition games. Worried some call up / fringe player will try and make a name for himself. This was a little different with a veteran bringing the hit. But Phaneuf isn’t that effective other than hitting. Harks back to your other post of lumbering D men.

  3. ms.conduct says:

    My theory is that Phanny was a bit of a doormat last season and he’s coming this year loaded for bear. It was a warning shot. Nasty Phanny’s back, bitches.

    Anyway, that’s my theory, though I admit I’m probably giving him too much credit for strategic thinking.

  4. Sally says:

    Hey, I like the kitten pictures.

    Hope Okposo’s noggin feels better soon.

  5. Brewster says:

    Best write up I’ve read today. Well done. The only thing I can add is that If Okposo has his strap tight, his helmet stays on and keeps his head from hitting the ice. Epic & clean hit. Unnecessary? Maybe. It’s hockey – keep your head up.

  6. Mike F says:

    JTB, you can probably do the geometry better than most of us: If Dawes doesn’t bump into Okposo first, what happens?

  7. jtbourne says:

    The more I think about the hit, the more I think: Its not like the hit stopped a threatening play – like it was a two on two, and some cocky winger tried to cut across the blue and get fancy. It’s a one on three with the puck already being poked out. It’s an attention hungry hit, probably (though as you mentioned Ms. C, I definitely would never give guys credit for plotting to send a message to the league). The Dawes bump just puts him on the tracks, but he did it to himself.

  8. Blake says:

    I’m with you on this one Justin…The hit was a good, solid, clean hit…The only reason why there’s a big discussion about it was because it was a lot on the unnecessary side.

    Maybe Okposo made some comment about Phaneuf looking like a trogolodyte and Phaneuf was pissed because he didn’t know what the word meant…Maybe he was looking for attention. Who knows.

    But it was just very, very unnecessary.

  9. smoboy says:

    You start penalizing hits like that, you start down the slippery slope of ultimately taking hitting out of the game. You play hockey, you take hits, you give hits.

  10. Neil says:

    The only reasonable defense Dion has, imho, is that the pace/intensity/whatever of the game is/was at a level where that is acceptable (which is essentially what he and the brass said after the game, things like “I don’t like to see guys hurt but my job is to take that hit” and “Dion is going to take that hit every time”). Presumably they don’t mean that Dion can’t play shinny with little kids because he will instinctually rail them if they skate with their heads down, they mean that in their opinion, for whatever reason, preseason/exhibition is fair game for big hits (I’m assuming that the Flames are OK with it publicly AND privately, but how the hell would I know).

    Don’t get me wrong, I personally agree with you Bourne, I don’t like the idea of stars getting hammered before points are on the line. I have watched two Canucks preseason games on TV, and in both games (vs. Isles and vs. Ducks) guys were throwing elbows (wozniewski threw a ridiculous one), hitting from behind, Hordichuk running around the ice like a donkey, etc. There were clearly guys on the roster trying to show the suits that they would be guys doing damage. Has there recently been a change in preseason attitudes, in the last few years or so? I guess you have already answered this question, that guys with roster spots don’t care and just get through it, but the games I’ve watched, guys play like they know they might get drilled by some guy fighting for a roster spot (the Canucks just dropped Lukowich to waivers after a couple preseason games!).

    Regardless of any of this though, from what I read, Okposo has a mild concussion, and is thankfully going to be alright and playing again soon.

  11. Mitch P says:

    Phaneuf has much to prove this year. If he doesn’t straighten his game out this year it’s a long way back to his glory. Also, did you catch the sick move Fleury put on your goaltender??????? Just sayin. ;) Go flames!

  12. jtbourne says:

    I’m sure you have so many credible hockey opinions, Pollock, it’s a shame you had to taint every one from now til eternity by defending anything Theo Fleury does on an ice rink at his age!

  13. Erik says:

    haha a donkey. But seriously Pascal reminds me so much of Happy Gilmore.

  14. JD says:

    JB, I go to school in Calgary so that hit last night has been generating quite a bit of news up here. While it was an exhibition game, I read one article that described the game as having a “playoff like atmosphere” (granted, that could largely be due to the hit itself, but Jokinen (?) was in a scrap earlier also), and I talked to a couple buddies who were at the game and they said the rink was buzzing right away, what with Fleury playing and all. Now here’s something I never thought I would type : I’m going to defend Phaneuf. I hate Dion – can’t stand him. I think he’s smug, I’ve never met a person who has a good thing to say about meeting him, and I think he has been somewhat overrated as a player (Calgary’s worst +/- among D last year). But here’s why I will defend him; as much as it might be hard to believe, Dion DOES have something to prove. He took a lot of heat from the media up here last year, he has an Olympic team he wants to be a part of, and he wants to re-establish himself as a Norris candidate. He had to spend all summer hearing people ask whether or not he can gain regain his 07-08 form. Now he finds himself in his first game in 4 months, in an electric building, with a chance to lay the kind of hit his reputation is built on, and he connects on an all-timer. I honestly don’t think I can blame him for the hit, and truly believe it was his natural hockey instincts taking over and laying a clean hit. That’s not to say Dion didn’t love every second of it (that’s the way he is) but I really don’t think he is in the wrong on this one. Not to call you out or anything, but would you hold the exact same stance if it was Colton Orr (or Pascal Morency) on the receiving end of that hit?

  15. T Jones says:

    I would have to agree with you on all acounts jt, but the part that bothers me about the hit is okposo is allready in a battle and just took a hit that put him off ballance and vulnerable. Obviously he shood have had his head up but phenuef taking a completley unnecsary shot at a player that is in a bad position just shows a complete lack of respect which doesn’t suprise me to much coming from pheneuf.

  16. jtbourne says:

    I’m fine with the defending of Phaneuf – it wasn’t a blatant string-the-guy-up type of play. But whats the contention? This year he’s decided to try really, really hard?

    And I may not take the same stance had it been Orr of Morency, but I’d also be more prone to believe that the guy had done something to fire Phaneuf up had it been one of them. You’re pretty sure with Okposo that it was the first incident between the two in a preseason game. Again, it wasn’t shockingly bad, just kind of a…. “what the heck was that all about?” moment for me.

  17. Scottkoe says:

    Hey Justin,
    Just read your boy Morency got suspended for leaving the bench…..

  18. The “he led with his elbow” crowd is all over “Ted Stevens’ Series of Tubes” on this one. But I think those folks are dead wrong. If you watch Phaneuf skating leading up to hit, you have to note that his skates are crossing over and physics dictates that your arms aren’t going to be at your sides … but at the point of impact his crossovers are finished and his arms are back at his sides. I think it only “looks” like he let up … I don’t there was any decrease in his momentum. At least he didn’t “skate through” the guy though.

    But yeah … there’s little to no reason for either of them to even be playing in that game. It occurs to me that perhaps the NHL should mandate that all but the last preseason games be played on neutral ice. If that game had been in Halifax in front of 6,000 people who aren’t rabid for “their” boys after the long offseason then I doubt that hit happens. Preseason should be for evaluating guys with whom the coach isn’t as familiar.

    It wasn’t a dirty hit … it wasn’t a cheap hit … but it was inappropriate. All the same … it never bothers me much to see an ex-Gopher leveled.

  19. Josh says:

    The hit looks clean to me, shoulder down, elbow tucked, knees bent. He did get airborne, and the elbow did come out, but it looks like that was more a result of the impact of the collision. I do agree that it may have been a bit overboard for the preseason, but all the people that are contending it was some kind of dirty hit or a blatant elbow are play wrong. That hit was not all that dissimilar to the Scott Stevens hit that effectively ended Eric Lindros’ career in the 2000 playoffs.

  20. JustJeff says:

    But Josh…

    Everyone hates Lindros… and I can’t imagine anyone not LOVING okposo…

  21. Neil says:

    What if it had been some dude from the AHL who layed out Okposo because he wants that spot on the fourth line? If every team has a handful of guys doing that stuff in preseason, why can’t Dion? It bugs me that doing that has become acceptable in the preseason (I hate watching Anaheim punch their way through the preseason every year), but I feel like putting it at Phaneuf’s feet is unfair. If there are guys on the other team looking to drill your scorers, aren’t their scorers fair game too?

  22. jtbourne says:

    Yeah, there’s no wrong or right answer. I can say that those guys that are out there running around, trying to impress the coaches aren’t respected amongst the players who have solid jobs. And I don’t mean the guys who work hard and try to make the team, that’s cool. But I mean the type of guys who play like animals to get noticed – they’re the ones who get eartagged with bad reputations then released back into the wild. The next time they try out somewhere, they’ll be trying out with the idiot asterisk by their name. Figuratively speaking, of course. Rare to see a guy an established guy like Phaneuf earn himself that preseason asterisk. “Throttle back, turbo”.

  23. Scott says:

    Its a legitimate hit, you can’t say its unnecessary at all. He hit a guy coming down the ice one on three with his head down. If you play like that you are bound to get your bell rung once or twice. Maybe in the regular season Phaneuf doesn’t take a chance like that cutting across the ice to hit a guy but in the preseason why not step up on a guy?

  24. jtbourne says:

    Can, did say it was unnecessary.

    I’m not that passionate about this particular play, but an email I got from an Islander was. Puking from walking downstairs with a concussion is scary. With no points on the line “unnecessary” is not an unreasonable response.

  25. Neil says:

    I find that stuff bad enough during the regular season, seeing it during the preseason is a little crazy. Downie took stupid to a whole new level last year, but even having certain guys in the roster (like Morency) kinda makes me wonder what coaches/GMs are trying to do. Huge hits in the preseason smells a little like taking the pre-game rally in tennis as an opportunity to blast a ball at your opponent’s ankle.

  26. Travelchic59 says:

    If I read one more nutty response about Kyle “should have had his head up”, I will lose it. HE WAS CHECKED FROM BEHIND, PEOPLE! At that point he had no control over the foward momentum of his head going down. Just sayin.

  27. Neil says:

    In the regular season this would not be up for debate. The question is whether or not it’s appropriate to drill a star in the preseason, not whether or not it was from behind or dirty. (I’m assuming the check from behind you are referring to is the push from the back-checking flame?)

    I’m sorry Bourne, I know you know some of these guys and have had a serious injury or two yourself, I don’t mean to be disrespectful or anything with points or comments. If it was up to me, I’d be seriously looking at taking head-shots out of the game somehow so we don’t have to have these “it was technically legal but looked and felt horribly wrong” debates.

  28. vek says:

    Jokinen was run earlier in the game, and instead of getting an instigator penalty for punching the stuffing out of the guy that did it, Calgary just sat back and waited for one of NYI’s star players to become vulnerable.

    That’s how payback works in the NHL now.

    Colin Campbell’s magic 8 ball style of discipline is an absolute joke, the players have no respect for each other, and the instigating penalty simply exacerbates these situations.

    If I was a guy in the NHL, I’d go get one of those new Messier project helmets, a Dany Heatley shield, and stuff bubble wrap everywhere else.

  29. T Jones says:

    I think it is interesting how Sutter reacted to the hit especially after his response to his sons hit last year which was very similar. In response to his sons hit he commented on the lack of respect in the game and although the hit was legal it showed the complete lack of respect that was present in todays game. However when one of his players takes a shot at a vulnerable defenseless player he simply says thats part of his game and dion cant pass on the hit. Obviously it is his job to put a positive spin on the hit to the media but at the same time it would be nice to see him at least keep a consistent stance.

    Reading you twitter JB it’s interesting how a player writes that they need to protect each other essentially saying that there is a lack or respect in the game. We hear this constantly in the media and many players comment on this yet at the same time we deal with situations like this at least a couple times a year. Is there an answer to gain respect back in the league I don’t know but it is something that the league need to look into and fast or else we will keep seeing hits like this.

  30. Lindsay says:

    Justin.. I just read it and I agree on how amazing a person Morency is as a person.,of course ALL bpt LOVES it when he fights.. I am happy that he stood up for Okposo. because that is what teammates should do.. yes he’s not the greatest player besides the fighting.. but he plays with his heart.. Okposo is also very lucky that the hit wasnt any worse than it was. But I think… Pascal should of waited until his next shift(people say he was about to go on the ice anyways… debatable) then on the next shift.. he could of fought. Im sure thats not what goes through players minds.. but he should of thought before he did anything..if he had anytime to think.. Lol.
    .If I dont make any sense of this… SOrry.. hehe

    BTW I hope all is well and it was great meeting you while you were in BPT

  31. minnesotagirl71 says:

    Regardless of if it’s pre-season or regular season, hits like that seem not only unnecessary but excessive. I love watching a good, clean hit during a game. They serve a purpose that’s integral to the game. But the ones that have that much impact behind them really freak me out . Okposo may only have a “mild concussion” but post concussion symptoms can last for months.

    Someone mentioned that players need to tighten their chin straps…those helmets pop of WAY too easily. A little chafing is a small price to pay to protect your skull, your health and any future career opportunities!

  32. jtbourne says:

    My hockey player response to your totally reasonable, intelligent “tighten your chinstrap” comment:


  33. Fish says:

    Morency, imho, was right to go after Phaneuf. As far as I can see, Okposo was no longer controlling the puck, he was bumped from behind and then Phaneuf flattens him. I believe that to be a late hit. If a guy is not controlling the puck when he is hit, to me the hit is too late…

    A guy like Morency has a purpose in the today’s hockey game as a guy who protects the star players on the team. Make sure nobody flattens them for kicks. And I think Phaneuf should have dropped the gloves and then the guy instead of wrestling Morency to the ground.

    In the second video though Morency has no business holdin on to the albany player and even less business to be so pleassed with himself having won the fight. It shouldn’t have been a fight. I don’t care what he called your momma.

    Of course, that is just my opinion, etc.etc…

  34. minnesotagirl71 says:

    “Bah.” Classic! Perfect hockey player response. I’m guessing hockey players loved ones would have a different response. I dread (almost as much as I look forward to) the day my nephew is old enough to play hockey with checking. His mother will have to be sedated for games….

    I seriously thought Columbus was going to break Colton Gillies in half during last Friday’s game. He looks so little compared to many of the other guys….

  35. siouxinpa says:

    Those things are chin straps? I thought they were handles to make helmets easier to carry to the rink. Who knew?

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