Slashing an opponent whose back is turned in the head might play well with hardcore Philadelphia Flyers fans, but for civilized people, probably not as much.
On Tuesday, Flyers prospect Anthony Stolarz, the 6-foot-6 goalie for the Memorial Cup host London Knights, covered up a puck to stop play and didn't much like the Windsor Spitfires' leading scorer Josh Ho-Sang getting an extra slash in with his stick. The referees caught the slash and gave Ho-Sang a penalty. The retaliation by Stolarz, a one-handed stick swing that connected with the back of Ho-Sang's head and neck area, was also deemed worthy of just a two-minute high-sticking minor, even though it was exponentially more emphatic and forceful:
(Update, 3:25 p.m. Wednesday: Stolarz has received an eight-game suspension. If London sweeps Windsor, he would not be able to play in the next round of playoffs, where the Knights are likely to face top-seeded Guelph.)
Anthony Stolarz of the @GoLondonKnights has been suspended for 8 games for his high stick on Josh Ho-Sang.
— Mike Stubbs (@stubbs1290cjbk) March 26, 2014
8 games for Knights Stolarz. What do refs get for assessing only 2 minute penalty #OHL
— Morris Dallacosta (@MoDaCoatLFPress) March 26, 2014
In case you missed it:
Last week, Plymouth Whalers wing Carter Sandlak (a prospect of the Carolina Hurricanes) got a match penalty after he swung his stick in frustration after a goal against his team and hit a Guelph Storm player. Sandlak has been suspended for four games, which could mean the end of his time in junior unless the Whalers win at least one more game during their series vs. the Storm. (Guelph leads the series 2-1.)
Sandlak was being reckless, but the contact was inadvertent. Even the blue-haired lawyer from The Simpsons couldn't credibly argue that Stolarz's high stick was an accident. How the OHL handles it when the officials only assessed a minor penalty to Stolarz will be interesting. Ho-Sang probably counts as an unsuspecting player (the OHL's term when someone is blindsided) since he had turned away. It's clearly a deliberate intent to injure an opponent.
Two seasons ago, OHL vice-president Ted Baker told the London Free Press regarding supplemental discipline, "Our intent isn't to re-referee games ... We want to create a better environment for our players." In a league where a hockey play gone wrong that results in head contact is an almost automatic 10-game suspension, hitting an opponent in the head with a stick can't possibly be tolerated.
Two years ago, the OHL suspended Ottawa 67's captain Marc Zanetti for the balance of the playoffs for kicking a defenceless opponent in the head. In 2000, the league also suspended the Barrie Colts' Ryan O'Keefe for the entire playoffs after a slew foot that resulted in an opponent breaking his ankle. O'Keefe's ban ended up covering 24 games, but he was allowed to return when Barrie qualified for the Memorial Cup tournament.
Those lengthy bans might be more pertinent precedents. Meantime, Stolarz certainly evoked the best, or worst of Ron Hextall.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet (video: TV Cogeco Ontario/Sportsnet).