Sports

Godard plays it fair

Vernon’s Eric Godard is paid good money as a fourth-line bodyguard with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

He lost $40,322 and change for taking his enforcer job seriously last week against the Islanders. Godard was suspended 10 games after he left the players’ bench to come to the aid of Penguin goaltender Brent Johnson who was in a fight with New York ruffian Micheal Haley.

And while Pens’ owner Mario Lemieux was lamenting about how the head shots and blindside elbows deserve longer penalties, he never mentioned Godard’s suspension. Didn’t have to.

You see, Godard was simply applying the unwritten Hockey Code by protecting his goalie, who looked like he might do OK against Haley, summoned that day from the AHL for the expected fireworks. Godard was taking no chances.

Godard’s teammates will respect him even more for jumping off the bench. Better he get 10 games than a player who gets 20 minutes of ice a game. It was a sacrifice for the team and I bet Godard earns a new contract with the Pens partly because of his actions.

Shouldn’t cheap-shot clown Matt Cooke of the Penguins, a major repeat offender who ruined Marc Savard’s career, get more games than Godard?

Head shots are out of control throughout the hockey world. The Vernon Vipers have never had more than one player sidelined with a concussion. This year, Mike Zalewski, Adam Thompson and Philip Patenaude have all missed several games after absorbing head shots, none of which drew suspensions.

Dave Sales is the BCHL’s version of Colin Campbell, the NHL’s disciplinarian. As executive director of the BCHL, he hands out suspensions under the new guidelines created by Hockey Canada and its Junior A Supplement.

Hockey Canada has five junior A leagues working with them on the Junior A Supplement aimed to reduce head shots, dangerous hits, checking from behind and fighting.

While Sales stated the BCHL wants to protect its players without removing hitting from the game, he did agree that there shouldn’t be freebees awarded since the rules give players three head-shot penalties before they get two games.

“I think we’re pretty early in the process with trying to make that change,” Sales told Black Press Sports.

The BCHL has issued 16 suspensions for blows-to-the-head this season.

Are we changing the world overnight? No,” said Sales. “From an outsider looking in, which I really am, when I look at these plays I’m really hoping that really shortly we’re going to see players not wanting to take a risk to get suspended two games by raising their elbows or hitting high. It’s the worst thing that we have in the game right now.”

Last season, the Western Hockey League handed out 110 games in suspensions; this season, it’s already at 149 after Kelowna Rockets’ Colton Jobke got seven games after blindsiding Chiliwack Bruins’ Tim Traber, who suffered a broken fibula.

According to my buddy Doyle Potenteau, who publishes the excellent Dub Nation online out of Kelowna, the play came exactly one week after Bruins’ blueliner Brandon Manning was suspended seven games for a hit on Austin Madaisky of the Kamloops Blazers.

Racing for the puck after it was dumped into Kamloops’ zone, Manning bumped Madaisky as they crossed the goal-line near the Blazers’ end-boards. That hit knocked Madaisky off balance, and he slammed back-first into the end-boards, suffering a fractured vertebrae (C7).

There has been far too much carnage due to head shots this year. Stiffer penalties and harsher suspensions are in order.

NOTES AND QUOTES: Kelly Hrudey, one of three new owners with the Nanaimo Clippers, was in the Hub City last Sunday to meet fans, players and billets. The others are Dave Moir – who has worked with Hrudey on CBC hockey broadcasts as a statistician and researcher – and Paul Colborne, who was away watching his son Joe, a 2008 first-round pick by Boston, play for the Providence Bruins. Joe, a Camrose Kodiak grad, is now property of the Toronto Maple Leafs... Vernon’s Brent Gilchrist was scheduled to play for the Habs in a Saturday outdoor alumni game against the 1989 Stanley Cup champion Flames at McMahon Stadium... A total of 41,000 fans will watch the Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic today in Calgary. Game time is 3 p.m. Supposed to be minus 13...Dylan Walchuk will likely win the Vipers’ Top Scorer award, and could do so with less than 60 points which would be a franchise record low over a 60-game schedule. Two years ago, Connor Jones racked up 60 points to lead Vernon and the Snakes to the RBC Cup.

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