Blackhawks Confidential

Seabrook, Wisniewski friendship gets blindsided in NHL's best tradition

anaheim.jpgI guess my favorite quote is where James Wisniewski pleads his not guilty case for having blood on his hands, claiming this purest of accidents can't be true.

He insists that he and Brent Seabrook are old buddies, real close pals, and implies by suggesting this bond: "Would I do this to a friend of mine?"

Right there is the problem wrapped up rather neatly in a 5-pound bag of shit.

Yep, Wisniewski would and did, giving a broader meaning to friendship than I have ever personally witnessed.

Oh, there certainly have been such fickle friends, people like Caesar and Brutus, like Dillinger and the lady in Blackhawks' red, like Cain and Abel, like Blagojevich and Obama, like Tallon and McDonough.

The Ducks defenseman, formerly of Chicago, came charging a long way to hit (maybe better to say smack, hammer, crush or maim) Seabrook with a shot to the head when he wasn't looking, when he didn't have the puck, and when his old buddy was least expecting such a howdy, partner, it's me.

He blindsided him out of the blue when he was behind the net in the second period, even leaving his skates to shout hello like a labrador greeting a juicy bone--all so old buddy Wisniewski could win a game by making a resounding point for a wavering team that probably won't make the playoffs.

Welcome to the NHL, where the occasional felony assault may draw a slap on the wrist every so often in games, but primarily is applauded and a sought-after talent.

You can never be short on muggers, even in a game where commissioner Gary Bettman prefers you concentrate more on the skating and scoring and finesse. He's the real Wiz, hiding behind curtains while consistent discipline is mangled beyond recognition.

Judas Wisniewski might want to check on whether Seabrook has decided to remove him as his Facebook friend. Relationships change quickly out there in L. A.

Ask Sandra Bullock, for whom the idea of blindside took on new meaning in the course of days. She went on a quick spin around the dance floor from Oscar adulation and some raw forthright emotion to oscillating anger at Jesse James' secret bullriding adventures. A short trip from crying to millions about him having her back to pissing down her front.

While the blindsided Hawks are on a dizzy whirl of their own with two important defensemen going down the last two games from arguable aggressions, we have to hope a slow burn from Seabrook being assaulted Wednesday by Anaheim's egregious Wisniewski will develop into a raging reaction Thursday night for the Blackhawks against the Los Angeles Kings.

Because what is needed is a win. Even if the calls from the sidelines want much more than that. Yes, head shots may be the hot topic of the moment, but bagging heads has been this sport's tradition for years and that will never be changed by any updated rule with fancy language and 20 shades of meaning.

If NHLers don't know yet they shouldn't be indiscriminately cracking people in the head when the circumstance doesn't really call for it, instructing them with a rule they'll never read won't alter the way they play carelessly and with malice aforethought.

Although Duncan Keith defended Seabrook's honor with a fight, some Hawks fans derided slow reactions to apply hockey's eye-for-an-eye justice to Wisniewski or whatever dead Duck was within reach and could be leveled with a similar shotgun spray. And damn the consequences.

They wanted somebody laid out the same way Al Capone took care of business, and hopefully leaking some key bodily fluid to appease their idea of what's right, what's justified and what's honorable.

That's what makes hockey different from other sports. Retaliation is considered a critical birthright and revenge is welcomed by a large segment, which believes their players likely will be intimidated unless one attack is followed by another attack and we run around that rain barrel until it seems like the blood, bruises and bile even out enough so everyone is happy with the body count.

Some of that is true. Forceful physical play at breathtaking speeds is a major part of the game's appeal. But trying to keep controlled violence in a good-looking box and allow this tiger to stay politely in the package cannot be done. Sooner or later, you just can't pull that snarling tiger by the tail and make him go wherever you want.

This is an argument without an end point. No winners here. But we always delve into it.

That's what makes the new headshot rules so ineffective. I say new, but they will be old headshot rules by the time they get around to enforcing them next season. We have to wait meanwhile for the DVD to go out to all the teams explaining the intricacies. Then we must wait for the Board of Governors to sign off and the leaderless Players Association to get with the program and get a voicebox.

And, after all these people agree, the officials on the ice won't be able to agree or see anything wrong with what happened before all our eyes.

At least Alex Ovechkin was ejected from Sunday's game for his shove of Brian Campbell in a reckless fashion as Campbell skated with his back to him toward the end boards.

Wisniewski received only a minimum of punishment from the officials for his assault, so how are officials next year going to start interpreting the difference between misdemeanors and felony assault? Based solely on whether the victim lived or died? Do you think they can parse a good headshot from a bad headshot?

We all know hockey is a tough game. Otherwise there wouldn't be so many toothless youngsters and rich dentists. Again, part of the appeal.

But when players have so little disregard for the other guy that they go out of their way, as Wisniewski did, to create mayhem and inflict physical damage--and get applauded by his coach for doing so--this is undoubtedly a culture impervious to change and modifications that can be truly meaningful.

Why, after all the years of the NHL's existence, have head shots suddenly been singled out for special policing? I can't think of any reason other than players' total disregard for what happens to the other guy.

Like Ovechkin said in his defense, shit always happens in hockey. Too bad.

Like Wisniewski said in his defense: "Who, me? What did I do?"

Players that can see nothing wrong with this culture will see nothing changed by stinking rules. The rules are enforced differently, anyway, by various officiating crews, adding to frustrations and sparking fights for justification and leading to retaliatory fights and on and on...

Seattle pitcher Cliff Lee might want to consider a NHL career. MLB suspended him for just throwing at a batter's head in spring training, an Arizona batter who had tripped him when Lee covered the plate.

Hell, in the NHL, Lee would be an acclaimed enforcer. He could actually hammer a foe in the head there, and a big stick can do just as much as damage as any 95 mile-an-hour beanball. Plus, if Lee gets tripped, he goes on the power play.

Just about anything goes in the NHL. Some people like it that way. I'd have to say it is a big part of hockey's appeal. But controlled violence will always spill over, leaving a mess we talk about but never truly find a way to clean up without leaving some stains.

I would also like to remind Hawks fans that Calgary and Vancouver tried to get tough with their team in the playoffs last year and didn't succeed. In fact, the Canucks say now they were taken out of their game and lost by trying to get too tough with the Hawks.

Of course, it would be good if we didn't lose a man a game the rest of the way. And some fans believe we will do just that unless we strike back to staunch our flow of blood by bloodying others.

Something to think about while you wait for Wisniewski's head on a platter as the enticing crowd warmup for the next United Center game.

I'm pretty sure that Ducks GM Bob Murray will sell Wiz's head for the right price to John McDonough, because Wiz will be a mugger without a victim to rob of his senses pretty soon when the Ducks miss the playoffs.

Murray may as well get his pound of flesh, too.

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9 Comments

Dave Morris said:

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Powerful stuff, Mike.

You remember you wrote earlier this year that the Hawks needed more 'smuggery'?

You have to wonder now if they don't need more 'thuggery'.

After all, there's nothing a bully understands better than a bop on the nose.

Hey, wait a minute...that's Bob Probert talk. Or is it Reggie Fleming?

iplagitr said:

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More pathetic quotes from Wiz and the coach:

Randy Carlyle: ”Bottom line is that he hit the hockey player. He used his body, his arms were down and he made a hard hit on a player. We’ll let other people make those decisions.”

“I saw the replay and I was shocked,” Wisniewski said when asked about Seabrook’s dazed look. “I just thought I finished my checked because I didn’t throw my arms up. My shoulder wasn’t into his head or anything like that.

Amazing. Apparently these guys are watching a completely different video since both Wiz's hands and his stick are clearly above Seabrook's head after he hits him.... not to mention his elbow is right in his face. And how about the Duck broadcast announcers saying that Seabs was faking being hurt to "sell" the scenario to the refs?

TonyO said:

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Thought I read that a suspension ruling would have to occur before Anaheim's next game (Friday) but that Campbell is "out of the office" attending the Bruins game tonight. Does that mean if the deadline isn't met and this addressed that Wiz may get off with no damage? I also had the Ducks broadcast. They claimed Seab's hit was dirty, hence the retaliation. They at least apologized later for the comments about Seabs faking it. That's when I tried to synch up laptop and TV.

Mike Kiley said:

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He may get off scott free, but not because of any deadline. If Seabrook's hit was dirty, why then did Wiz claim after the game that that hit had nothing to do with his actions? He could have used it for justification. Instead, Wiz is left with being amazed at watching the replay and repetitions of "Who, me? How did that happen?"

borg said:

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"why then did Wiz claim after the game that that hit had nothing to do with his actions?"

Probably didn't want the NHL thinking he was looking for revenge. All part of the storyline that it was a clean check....that began in King county and ended up along the boards.

TonyO said:

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ESPN.com reporting 8 game suspension.

Jerry Kayne said:

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Here's a little something I just thought of.

Maybe we're being run so often now because our power play is so bad it's worth the tradeoff. "We'll knock your guys out and all we'll get is 2 minutes of rest."

Wiz lost 8 games and almost $300,000. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy.

Let's get a win tonight boys so we can all relax a bit.

TonyO said:

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So here's another take on this mess. What about the refs from last night? A review os their perfomance by the League? Some pretty bad mistakes. Let's go Hawks!

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