It's the first game of 2017, and the first game in what seems like FOREVER for the Bulldogs (11-18-5-2, 5th Island) as they host the Cowichan Valley Capitals (19-15-2-2, 3rd Island) tonight at the Dog Pound.
The Bulldogs last played 21 days ago, playing to a 4-4 tie against the Victoria Grizzlies on home ice. The Capitals were last in action on Friday night at home, where they had a three game winning streak snapped with a 3-1 loss to the Grizzlies.
The Bulldogs got some help on the out of town scoreboard while they were on their break, as the Nanaimo Clippers lost two of the three games they played while the Dogs were idle, with the Bulldogs entering play tonight five points back of them for 4th place on the Island with three games in hand.
The first game back after the break is usually a challenge, with some "rink rust" usually evident along with some turkey and shortbread mixed in. The Dogs can ill afford to squander any of their games in hand if they hope to make up ground in the standings, so here's hoping that the break being as long as it was let the players return to the rink refreshed and ready to go and get right back at it to play the same way coming out of the break that they were when they went into it. As the Capitals already have a game under their belt coming out of the break, one has to think that they could have a bit of an early advantage tonight.
These teams last met December 14th in Duncan, a 2-0 Capitals win in a game that was scoreless until the final three minutes of regulation.
That game was of course marred by a horrible incident that saw Ayden MacDonald board Malik Kaila (although it was called a hit to the head) resulting in a terrible scene that saw Kaila removed from the ice on a stretcher after a lengthy delay. The end result - two broken vertebrae in Kaila's neck, and a four game suspension for MacDonald and possibly (probably?) the end of Malik Kaila's career.
I have been procrastinating posting about this for a long time - since the last game before the Christmas break, in fact, when I heard the league's ruling of the suspension. I have been dreading writing about this for a long list of reasons. I don't want to be critical of the league - I was hoping the suspension would be a lengthy one, and I wouldn't have to say much. I don't want to demonize Ayden MacDonald - I'm sure he feels terrible. No one wants to end someone's career, things happen very very fast out there. It could just as easily have been or could be a Bulldog that hits a player on the other side of the puck with a result like this one. I guess someone has to say something further about it though, and I know from all the questions and angry feedback I've received from fans that everyone expects me to be that someone.
Here's the hit, for those that haven't seen it yet. A word of warning, it's not for the squeamish.
I don't think the hit was with intent, but it was reckless. Kaila was 6-7-8 feet away from the boards and MacDonald traveled laterally across the ice to hit him - into the boards. Kaila turns in the act of playing the puck - but that's a moot point. With his chest to MacDonald, or with his back to him, being hit in that fashion in that proximity to the boards is going to result in a significant injury from being boarded no matter what way you go into them, especially at that velocity that he was driven into the boards. The injury Malik Kaila suffered is the reason this rule exists.
This hit was textbook, straight from the rulebook - BOARDING. 6.2
Rule 6.2 Boarding and Body Checking (a) A Minor penalty or, at the discretion of the Referee, a Major penalty and a Game Misconduct penalty, based upon the degree of violence of the impact with the boards, shall be assessed any player who body checks, cross-checks, elbows, charges or trips an opponent in such a manner that causes the opponent to be thrown violently into the boards. If a player is injured a Major penalty and a Game Misconduct penalty must be assessed.
Four games seems pathetically lenient in my opinion. Maybe it's just that I'm looking at this from the Bulldog side of the puck? In the end, when someone's career is over, how many games will make it "right"?
I don't know the league's rationale in deciding it was worth sitting out four games. I do know that MacDonald is a repeat offender. It's hard to get an idea of past transgressions with the BCHL website change over last year limiting past discipline to only that point, but I found at least two instances of MacDonald being suspended for major penalties for checks to the head, and checks to behind.
Craig Martin was suspended EIGHT games for a hit from behind in the 2013-2014 season on a hit that had no where near the end result that this one did. And he was a first time offender. Maybe it's unfair to make any comparisons to different plays.
What's your call?
All I know is I sure feel for Malik Kaila, and I wish him the best in his recovery. A classy player, and a great person, and the Dogs will certainly miss him.
I'm excited to get back on the air tonight - Van Isle Ford Bulldogs Hockey on 93.3 The Peak FM kicks off with the pregame show at 6:45, with the puck dropping just after 7:00. Bruce MacDonald adds colour commentary and analysis while I provide the play-by-play.former Bulldog Chase Van Allen - currently playing his SENIOR season with the NCAA's University of Alaska-Anchorage Seawolves. Holy cow, does time ever fly. It feels like just yesterday that Chase was here, one of the huge reasons that the Dogs won the Island Championship in 2012-2013. Chase was named Best Defenceman, Community Hero, and Most Inspirational that year.
If you aren't in listening range of 93.3 The Peak FM you can listen/watch the game by:
Listening Live on your computer: www.933thepeak.com
Listening Live on your SmartPhone : www.tunein.com/mobile/
Watching Live on your computer/SmartPhone www.hockeytv.com