At 5-foot-10 and 186 pounds, Barrie Colts defenceman Ryan O'Connor doesn't fit the profile of the headhunter who tries to knock opponents into next week instead of just making a solid bodycheck.
Yet the captain is the subject of the latest OHL suspension which raises questions of whether the league has crossed too far to the side of caution when it comes to sitting players down for a hockey play. Kingston Frontenacs right wing Spencer Watson did suffer an injury on Saturday when O'Connor caught him with his head down on a rush into the Colts zone. O'Connor was given a checking-to-the-head major/game misconduct, but it's impossible to divine any intent to target the head. Yet he's been suspended indefinitely.
From Rogers Television:
O'Connor is an overage and Watson is a 16-year-old rookie, in case anyone was wondering. Any checking-to-the-head major should be looked at by the league, but it's tough to tell what was objectionable.
Kingston forward Spencer Watson's chin drew blood when he hit ice & not when O'Connor hit him. There was no contact with the head.
— Gene Pereira (@GenePereira1) March 25, 2013
Spencer Watson out for Kgn as result of the O'Connor hit. Possible concussion
— Doug Graham (@dougout47) March 25, 2013
In order for suspensions to become a deterrent, intent should be punished more than whether there an injury. That was at play with the 10-game suspension that Niagara IceDogs defenceman Ondrej Kopta has received for two-handing Oshawa's Scott Sabourin on Sunday.
The OHL has handed down one head-checking suspension so far in the playoffs, sitting down Owen Sound Attack right wing Cameron Brace for a hit on Sault Ste. Marie's Jared McCann that only drew a minor penalty from the game officials. That's not necessarily a precedent for what, if anything beyond the one game, O'Connor will get.
(Stick tap: Craig Ripley.)
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org.