Kaleta suspended, Richards sits following controversial hit
by Mike Repertorio/Correspondent
Buffalo Sabres forward Patrick Kaleta was suspended for five games following an incident in Sunday night’s game against the New York Rangers.
Blueshirts center Brad Richards was facing the wall and going after the puck when Kaleta delivered a cross-check, shoving Richards into the boards. Richards crashed violently, head-first, immediately clutching his shoulder in pain. Kaleta received a five-minute major for boarding and a ten-minute game misconduct for the hit. Richards did return in that game.
From the 3.28 minute mark of the third period on, Facebook and Twitter were ablaze with split opinions on the hit. Many called Kaleta’s hit both dirty and disgusting, while others claimed that Richards dived into the boards. Yet, some were still on the fence. So what was the severity of the hit?
Coach Tortorella had a pretty strong opinion, calling the hit “ridiculous” and probably one of the most dangerous hits he had ever seen. Hockey personality Don Cherry also called out Kaleta after the hit, basically calling him a dirty player who doesn’t “back it up.”
Mike Harrington of the Buffalo News had a comment for some of these detractors, though. Via twitter, Harrington posted the following:
“If you say Kaleta runs, hides and doesn't fight, you're about three years behind. And I bet you every coach in the league would take Kaleta, too.”
Kaleta spoke with the media Monday and said he has not only changed his game over the years, but that it has been noticed by many around the league.
But what about the hit itself?
I’ll admit that, at first, I thought Richards may have embellished the hit a little bit. It didn’t look like Kaleta had hit him that hard, so why such a violent outcome? I went to the best source I know, who’s both a friend and a hockey player. The former collegiate goaltender explained that the hit, combined with the situation (where Richards was positioned and where Kaleta hit him) is what created the dangerous outcome. So, even though Kaleta didn’t “crush” Richards into the boards, it was, plain and simple, a dirty hit.
And that was the same opinion held by NHL VP of Player Safety Brendan Shanahan. After his call with Kaleta on Monday afternoon, the five-game suspension was handed down. Reviewing the hit and speaking with Kaleta, it was determined that, given Kaleta’s suspension history, the hit was worthy of the maximum five games (the maximum suspension following a phone meeting is five games). Kaleta will also forfeit $76,219, a number based on his average annual salary.
It should be noticed that in reviewing the hit, Shanahan did take into consideration that Kaleta did not shove Richards with excessive force. However, the shove occurred at “an extremely dangerous distance from the boards” and was boarding.
Richards misses game against Flyers
With the Rangers set to take on the visiting Flyers, Richards left morning skate early and was ruled out of Tuesday’s tilt. He did not take part in the team’s practice on Monday.
Coach John Tortorella described his top-line pivot as “banged up.”
Micheal Haley was recalled from Connecticut to fill the void up front.
Sans Richards, the Rangers broke a 2-2 tie in the third period with two goals from winger Rick Nash, who now has seven tallies on the season. Captain Ryan Callahan also had a pair of goals in the 4-2 victory.
The Sabres, meanwhile, fell by a score of 4-3 down in Carolina.