KELLEY: Roenick deserves coal in his stocking

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Jim Kelley

AROUND THE BOARDS: Kelley's look at the NHL

No peace or goodwill from Roenick

And on this the eve of one of the most sacred holidays in all the world, we wish we could provide to you some peace on earth and good will toward men. At the end of this column, we attempt to do so, but in the interim, unfortunately, we can only update you on the ill-will still being generated by Philadelphia forward J. R. Roenick¿s hit from behind on Dallas¿ . After first dismissing the issue and then cloaking it in clouds of obscurity, the truth of the matter is that Modano suffered what team officials now say was a ¿mild concussion¿ the result of being checked face-first into the boards from behind on a hit Roenick first insisted was an accident, then said was part of the game and now claims that if you don¿t like it you can kiss his backside. Now normally a mild concussion is not the end of the world for even the person on the receiving end of a shameless cheap shot. But this is the second time Roenick has taken Modano out with a hit from behind and it is believed to be the fourth time Modano has been concussed as a Dallas Star and possibly the fifth or sixth time in his career when you toss in stints with the Minnesota North and in junior hockey. That¿s red-flag territory, the kind of accumulation that led to the end of the road for a player like Pat LaFontaine and others and not good for Modano, the or the National Hockey League. Already, Modano has missed three games with headaches and lingering side effects. He failed baseline-testing days after the hit and didn¿t pass until Monday, a span of six days. He expects to play when the season resumes on Thursday. Though the hit at first was downplayed by all parties, it did not sit well with Modano or his teammates. ¿It's mainly the headaches, nagging all day, that's the one thing that throws up red flags,¿ Modano said this week. ¿The more (concussions) you get, the more easily it is to get them. When the brain is moved around, jarred and bruised, eventually it takes a toll on you." Modano, who has been hit from behind on other occasions in the NHL, then spoke out in the strongest way possible. ¿There should be no blows to the head, nothing of that nature," Modano said. "We should address it that way. Even shoulder hits to the head should be fines or suspensions." Oddly enough, Roenick has his supporters regarding the hit. ESPN analyst Barry Melrose defended it saying it was clean — a perception that defies both logic and video replay — and that it represents ¿old-time hockey.¿ I¿ve been around a long time, even longer than Melrose, and my recollection of old-time hockey is that except for the of the 1970s, players generally respected one another, hit each other hard but usually not from behind and when something like this happened the perpetrator was made to pay a price immediately with a good physical beating from the injured party¿s teammate. That was old-time hockey. The fact that Roenick wasn¿t tossed from the game after this incident is ludicrous. The fact that he was ¿so upset¿ that he couldn¿t focus on the remainder of the game stemmed from the fact that he kept looking over his shoulder for Modano¿s teammate, Darien Hatcher. The last time Roenick did this to Modano, Hatcher eventually paid him back by breaking his jaw and knocking several of his teeth out. The two teams don¿t meet again this season, a fact that perhaps emboldened Roenick on Monday when he told reporters in Philadelphia: ¿I'm going to hit even harder, just to spite everybody. "People want to call me dirty, they want to call me cheap? Hey, I only play the game hard. If they don't like it, don't watch it. That's too bad. I'm not going to stop. I'm not going to stop hitting." That¿s a far cry from his initial statement, when he said he was sorry, it was an accident and claimed to have apologized ¿at least a hundred times.¿ Fair enough, but if we¿re really talking old-time hockey, don¿t think for a moment that the won¿t remember. "Any time you hit somebody from behind like that, it's a cheap hit,¿ said coach Dave Tippett, a man with a lifetime of NHL experience as a player and now a coach. ¿It's disrespecting the player." This will come around again.

Sticking with the

forward returned to New Jersey for the first time since general manger Lou Lamoriello traded him at the deadline last spring. Arnott did not mince words about the occasion. ¿It's hard to swallow that after you win the Cup, he breaks up the team like that,¿ Arnott said. ¿That's his business. It's his team. He's gotta do what he's gotta do.¿ Asked if Lamoriello runs a tight ship, Arnott said: ¿Yeah, he does. He's the boss. What he says goes. If you don't like it, you aren't going to be around. ¿It's a little looser around here (Dallas), no question. It makes for a little better atmosphere. It's not as tense. You're not under the microscope 24 hours a day. He was around a lot. He enjoys the game. It's in his blood. He wants to be around it all the time. Sometimes it's good. Sometimes it's not. You need a team that's loose and stuff going on in the room. It's just a different atmosphere from here to there.¿ In defense of Lamoriello, no one runs a tighter ship in the NHL, few can match his record for success and players who play in the New Jersey system are usually the better for it. Not a lot of other clubs can say the same.

A man with vision

Mike Barnett, the general manger of the Phoenix and one of the most respected minds in the NHL today, caused a stir this week when he said that visors should be mandatory for all NHL players. It¿s hard to imagine that in any other world except the relatively short-sighted world of hockey that this would be considered revolutionary or even controversial, but Barnett will likely be roasted by old-time hockey folks who think eye protection is for sissies, inhibits fighting and takes some of the ¿manliness¿ out of the game. Barnett takes the point of view that players often need protection from themselves in matters such as personal safety on the ice and that by making eye protection mandatory, much like the NHL did in requiring players to wear helmets, it removes the sissy charge from consideration. Barnett also maintains that vision is something that can¿t normally be replaced and therefore should be protected. He also argues that since clubs have a huge investment in their players, it should fall to the clubs to protect that investment even if the players won¿t. This is the kind of logic that would go unquestioned in most any other sport, but it¿s unique to hockey. If there were more people like Barnett in the game, perhaps hockey wouldn¿t have more serious eye injuries than any other professional sport. It should also be noted that forward was recently struck in the eye by a puck and still can¿t see out of his left eye. He¿s had two surgeries to repair the damage and his career is in jeopardy.

One final thought

While we're looking for glad tidings and men of good will this holiday season we tip our proverbial hat to NHL tough guy . Every year, with precious little fanfare, one of the league¿s all-time penalty minute leaders drops his hard-guy image and teams up with the Buffalo Police Department to take bagsful of groceries and cars full of toys to needy families in the city. Buffalo has a lot of people in need and this year there¿s some concern that they might not even be able to afford to keep their hockey team, but Ray carries on. He¿s been doing this ever since he entered the NHL a dozen years ago. It¿s his way of giving something back to a community that has given him an NHL career and it¿s his way of helping to portray the police as something more than just tough guys doing a tough job in a community where caring is often a distant second to need. Ray has never made his caring into a crusade or even a show. He gets friends and teammates to donate the toys and food and the police help by referring the families in need that they see during their time on the beat. It¿s low key, but very effective and it makes a point that not all athletes are just about themselves. Ray¿s only stated request is that when his time as an NHLer comes to an end he hopes a teammate will continue the effort he started. Fans of hockey in Buffalo can only hope there will be a team there in the future that would allow Ray¿s wish to come true.
Who're they?
In a variation of our Who¿s He theme, we would like to point out that overtime goal scoring appears to be the exclusive province of European- born players. The top three overtime goals scorers in the NHL today are , and of the Florida , Detroit and New York respectively. Each has two. Florida coach Mike Keenan, whose team has the most Europeans in the NHL on its roster and whose team has also played the most overtime games this season, has a theory. He thinks that because European-born players grow up playing on a larger ice surface, some 15 feet wider than a standard NHL rink, they have an advantage. When the game goes to overtime and the players go four-on-four instead of five-on-five, it opens up the ice more and the Euros are quicker to take advantage of the extra room to make plays. It¿s a theory that bears watching. Then again, it might just be that the European players have more skills. The top three leaders in game-winning goals (regulation time) are Fedorov, and of Detroit, Toronto and Vancouver respectively. The three European-born players have combined for 19 game-winning goals. Fedorov has seven and Mogilny and Naslund each have six.
Five things you should know
1. The World Junior Championships kick off this week in Halifax and Sydney, Nova Scotia. Why should you care? Well, one reason is nearly half of the NHL players in the league this season, including 15 of the league¿s top 20 scorers, are veterans of this tournament. It is hockey¿s future. 2. A pair of veteran are closing in on NHL milestones. needs just nine goals to become just the sixth player in NHL history to reach the 700 goals mark. Teammate needs five to tie Hall of Famer Dale Hawerchuk for 21st place on the all-time list with 533. 3. Only two players have ever notched 1,200 assists in this league. One of them is named Gretzky and the other, , is still playing. The Carolina center reached the milestone mark Dec. 22 vs. Dallas. 4. The have won six of their past seven games (6-1-0-0) to continue a franchise-best start (15-10-6-3, 39 points). The club also has won a franchise-record six consecutive games at Arrowhead Pond, the longest current home winning streak in the NHL. 5. Aside from the Ducks, most of the hot teams are north of the border. Toronto has not lost at home since Nov. 24 (9-0-1) at the Air Canada Centre. Ottawa is 15-2-3-0 in its last 20 games and despite a loss to Colorado Monday, Vancouver has moved to the top spot in the Western Conference playing equally well at home and on the road.
On the minus side
The top (or is it bottom?) four leaders in negative plus-minus numbers amazingly enough all play on the same team. (minus-21), (minus-21) (minus-20) and (minus-17) all play for the Atlanta . That¿s a combined minus-79. The next-worst player is Buffalo¿s (minus-16) who happens to be tied with New York defenseman , two Pittsburgh and — and yet another Atlanta player, . A player receives a plus if he¿s on the ice when his team scored an even-strength or shorthanded goal. He receives a minus if he¿s on the ice when the opposing team scores an even-strength or shorthanded goal. The difference in these numbers is considered the player¿s plus-minus rating.
In the next 48 hours
OK, we¿re stretching it a bit, but with the NHL off on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, this fits. On Dec. 29 Tampa Bay associate coach Craig Ramsay will participate in his 2,000th NHL game as either a player, head coach or assistant or associate coach. Combining regular season and playoff games, Ramsay played in 1,159 NHL games (89 of them playoff games). He has been a head coach for 94 games and an assistant coach for 744 games with Buffalo, Florida, Philadelphia, Ottawa and Tampa Bay. Not bad for a man who nearly died on an operating table after undergoing surgery for a serious stomach ailment just weeks into his NHL coaching career in Florida.
When New York ' goalie stopped Washington's on a penalty shot Dec. 21, he became the 10th different goalie to face a penalty shot in the past 10 attempts. Honest, this is a league record. You can look it up. OK, we did it for you. The previous streak was nine, by the Boston (Andy Moog, John Blue, Jon Casey, Vincent Riendeau, Blaine Lacher, Bill Ranford, Jim Carey, Robbie Tallas, and ) from Nov. 11, 1992 to Jan. 9, 2001. The 10 goaltenders are: Kelly Hrudey (goal), Mark Fitzpatrick (no goal), Glenn Healy (no goal), Ron Hextall (goal), (goal), (no goal), (no goal), John Vanbiesbrouck (no goal), (no goal) and DiPietro (no goal). DiPietro is up with the for another look-see and is playing well. The former No.1 pick overall (2000) makes for a crowded roster on the island what with and already there, but DiPietro has played well during his recent stint in the NHL and management believes its time for him to test himself vs. NHL competition. That puts Snow in jeopardy and could even prompt a trade for Snow or Osgood depending on how well DiPietro plays. It¿s not likely general manager Mike Milbury will trade DiPietro given that he already traded away Salo, Luongo and Weekes, all three of whom are staring in the NHL today with Edmonton, Florida and Carolina respectively. Still, several teams are likely to be shopping for experienced goaltending help down the road and Osgood does have a Stanley Cup ring on his finger and a substantial contract. Much depends on how well DiPietro plays and on how the are positioned come the trade deadline (regards playoff consideration), but few teams carry three goaltenders and if the kid makes a showing, something or someone will have to go. Staying with this theme, it should be noted that the Buffalo are looking for experienced goaltending help and the Boston are reportedly interested in upgrading the position as well.
Jim Kelley can be reached at his e-mail address: jkelley@foxsports.com.
Tagged: Bruins, Sabres, Red Wings, Oilers, Hurricanes, Stars, Devils, Islanders, Rangers, Flyers, Penguins, Maple Leafs, Canucks, Capitals, Coyotes, Ducks, Panthers, Jets, Tim Connolly, Slava Kozlov, Michael Nylander, Brendan Shanahan, Sergei Fedorov, Brett Hull, Mike Modano, Jason Arnott, Garth Snow, Rick DiPietro, Petr Nedved, Shawn McEachern, Wayne Primeau, Kevin Weekes, Alexander Mogilny, Markus Naslund, Roberto Luongo, Daniel Tjarnqvist

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