The hit was delivered by the Philadelphia Flyers' Derian Hatcher, fresh off accusations that he bit the finger of the New Jersey Devils' Travis Zajac when the two teams played on January 4th at the Rock in Newark.
But this Downiesque attempt to take off an opposing player's head had unintended consequences during the game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Flyers on January 5th, 2008.
In the second period of the game, Hatcher lined up Alexander Steen with an open-ice hit, clearly launching himself at that crucial last second before impact, where the physics of such a move guarantee the most momentum and effect.
Unfortunately for Hatcher, and even more for his team-mate Joffrey Lupul, Steen's instincts kicked in and he hit the ice. Lupul took the elbow intended for Steen straight in the chops, going down under the full weight of the lummox Hatcher. Lupul was helped off the ice with images of cheese steaks and freight trains dancing in his head.
The spinning has already started with rabid denials of the reality staring people in the face in the form of video from multiple angles.
Considering the usual template that is applied in the aftermath of such incidents, there could be some synapses short-circuiting amongst the sociopath set.
Does Lupul deserve the (potential though unconfirmed at the moment) injury he suffered because he didn't anticipate the hit?
What about that tiresome cliche that was being spewed with regularity by certain fans early in the season? Does it get tweaked slightly?
"It's great to
It also presents an interesting conundrum for NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbell. Do you suspend a player clearly engaging in the type of behaviour that has been suspension-worthy this season? Or do you let the fact that the hit took out one of the Flyers' own players stand as punishment enough?
Contact and degree of injury are two of the obvious tests for the league in determining whether they will hand down further punishment for an illegal hit. It would be remarkable if the NHL expressed their displeasure for Hatcher and the Flyers by doling out an official sanction in this case.
Campbell and Gary Bettman have both hinted recently that the next incident from the Flyers would result in fines against the team.
If anyone had doubts about whether the series of attacks and illegal body checks (some blatant, some border-line) that resulted in suspensions to Philadelphia were unfortunate "coincidences," there has been little question for some time now that they are part of a conscious and deliberate approach to the game.
As for the match-up between the Leafs and Flyers, Steve Downie's style of conduct was on display again with a sucker punch to Jason Blake that resulted in two minor penalties and allowed the Leafs to get back in the game with a power play goal. Downie's actions may well be in for a review by the league as well, especially considering his antics earlier in the season.
The Flyers went on to win the contest 3-2. Though it helped them little in this game, their fans will likely brush aside criticism of their style of play with the claim "winning is the most important thing, no matter how you do it."