Senators’ Konopka Says Phaneuf Needs To Answer Bell; Is He Right?


Zenon Konopka sent a message to Dion Phaneuf and the Toronto Maple Leafs after the Saturday night Ottawa Senators‘ loss, and in today’s Ottawa Sun he backed up that message by saying:

"He just has to know that if he makes a hit like that, he’s going to have to answer the bell. I don’t care if he gets it."

This was in response to Leafs coach Ron Wilson and Captain Dion Phanuef wonering post-game why Phanuef would have to defend himself for anihalating Stephane Da Costa coming through the middle.

Now this might not make me popular in Sens land, but I have to agree with them, and disagree with Konopka on this one.  The hit was massive, and predatory, but it was CLEAN.  In a day where players are targeting the head with elbows, sticks and other objects, and people are complaining that the hitting will be taken out of the game, hits like this should be applauded.  Whether it is for your team or against it, the fact that Da Costa came through the middle and Phaneuf took the opportunity to deliver a shoulder to chest bodycheck is admirable.  Phaneuf could have led with his elbow and/or targeted the head.  When I watched the hit live on TV, it was massive and the whole establishment I was in let out a collective ooooohhhh!  Give Da Costa a ton of credit for getting up from the hit and continuing on in the game, and eventually scoring his first career goal later in the evening.

Fast forward to Tuesday night’s home opener, and the most talked about play, after Daniel Alfredsson‘s shootout clincher, was Chris Neil‘s lambasting of Wild defenseman Clayton Stoner as Stoner came out from behind the Wild net.  Neil came and in much a predatory style as Phaneuf’s hit on Da Costa, nailed Stoner with a solid shoulder to the chest. The hit was a (maybe  even THE) turning point in the game as Ottawa went on to win the game, having trailed 2-0 at the time of the hit.

So why should Phaneuf have to “answer the bell” while Neil be celebrated and awarded with the first star (although the hit was not the only good thing Neil did in the game)?

Is it because of the rivalry with the Leafs that a message has to be sent?  Nick Foligno went after Phaneuf immediately after the Da Costa hit, while not one Wild player stepped up to challenge Neil after his hit.  Is it because the Wild are weak and spineless and afraid of Neil? OR is it because they realize that hitting is a part of the game, and as long as the hit is clean, then good on him for taking it.
This has long been a sticking point for me, where a good, clean (but hard) hit results in a fight or at least a scrum.  I am all for sticking up for a teammate when he is wronged, but in both the Phaneuf-Da Costa and Neil-Stoner situations, the hits were highlight reel, and totally withing the rules.  Ottawa looked for retribution on Phaneuf, and it is still a topic of conversation today.

If the Wild players and fans had the same reaction towards Neil after his hit, what would Senators players and more importantly, fans, be saying about them today?  Based on past history, they would be taking Neil’s side.

To go after Phanuef for a clean hit that would be celebrated should the tables be turnted seems a little hypocritical to me, but I guess that is the life of a sports fan.

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