For the eight time in the 2011 preseason, new NHL discipline czar Brendan Shanahan handed out a suspension for an illegal hit. Detroit Red Wings defenseman Brendan Smith caught Chicago Blackhawks forward Ben Smith (no relation) up high with his shoulder, earning himself a hefty punishment and leaving Chicago’s Smith day-to-day with a possible concussion.
Although Brendan stated that he didn’t intend to hit Ben Smith in the head, the puck-moving blueliner expressed remorse for the end result. Going beyond the players involved, the two teams seemed divided on the check. Chicago’s head coach Joel Quenneville believed it was an obvious illegal hit, while Red Wings bench boss Mike Babcock wondered if Ben Smith put himself in a vulnerable position – at least to some extent.
Either way, Babcock and Brendan Smith alike agreed that the budding prospect needs to learn from this situation.
“It’s a high-risk play when someone tries to cut to the middle,” Brendan Smith said. “It’s not an illegal play on him, and actually, he made a great move. I was actually trying to catch him, because he kind of had a step. I’m going to have to learn from this, for sure. The game moves very quickly. I’m going to have to adjust to it and make sure that I’m in the right place at the right time, so that will never happen (again).”
“(The suspension) ruined my chances of being up here for the start of the season,” Brendan Smith said. “I kind of canceled myself out there, but it’s alright. They told me that I’ll get my chances (in Detroit). We’ll just have to deal with this first. It’s a maturity thing that I’m going to have to learn from.”
Credit Brendan Smith for giving Ben Smith a call to apologize for the hit, whether he believes it was malicious/illegal or not. Maybe it’s not enough to say you’re sorry, but it shows some class and humility to admit you’re wrong. The situation hurts both prospects; Brendan’s pain just isn’t as literal. Hopefully he – and many other players – will learn the best way to handle tough checking situations sooner rather than later.