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Keith Ballard: Reaction from Around the League (UPDATED)

Ballard2 There seems to be a little difference of opinion when it comes to what happened last night in Atlanta.

In speaking with Randy Sexton and Pete DeBoer, the thought is everything is OK. Tomas Vokoun and Keith Ballard spoke on the plane last night and there are no hard feelings. The league isn't going to suspend Ballard and neither is the team.

For the record, I agree with this on both sides. Ballard made a mistake; he wasn't being malicious and he definitely wasn't trying to hurt his teammate. He wouldn't do such a thing even if he didn't like him -- and there is no evidence to support such a theory.

Spoke to a couple of my beat writer pals, and this was a hot topic around the league today. Here's what I have been able to cull together. Will add more as they roll in tonight and tomorrow.

Let me know what y'all think:

Coyotes PHOENIX COYOTES, From Scott Cruickshank, The Calgary Herald

"I feel for Bally," says Shane Doan, the Phoenix Coyotes captain and a three-season teammate of Ballard’s. "Because that’ll be remembered — and shown — for a long, long, long time. He’ll never live it down. Bally, he’s a guy that it’ll just eat at him.

"There’s no discipline that anyone could give him that’ll even be remotely close to what he’s going to do to himself."

"Keith, he’s going to have to live with the fact that he pretty much two-handed his goalie across the face . . . and put him in hospital," says Scottie Upshall, sitting in the Coyotes dressing room after Wednesday morning’s practice.

"Right there, that’s enough grief and enough penalty to place upon someone.

"You know, behind closed doors, when you come in the dressing room, you can go off in the corner and punch the wall, do whatever you want," says Upshall. "But when you’re out on the ice, you’re a professional, you’re setting an example and you have a stick in your hand that, really, can be used as a weapon. When I first saw it, it was really shocking. And till it happened in your own room, you wouldn’t know what to do or what to say.

"I’m sure Ballard feels awful about it. But, at the same time, what if his actions took out Vokoun for the whole year? It’s serious stuff. It should definitely be looked at as, ‘You’ve got to keep your emotions in check.’ Swinging a stick, which seems harmless, can really be harmful."

Adds Vernon Fiddler: "Watching it on the highlights for the next six months is going to be enough punishment for the guy."

"A quality person," says Doan. "Meet Bally on the street, he’s the most gentle, nicest guy. One of the top guys I’d want on my team."

Oilers EDMONTON OILERS: From Jim Mathisen, The Edmonton Sun

"I respect the anger of the moment but as we've seen there are consequences you don't plan on. Only way it could have been worse was if he'd hit him again with his second swing. I'm sure when he's 85, they will still be calling it up on Bloopers." said coach Pat Quinn.

Expos MONTREAL CANADIANS: From Pat Hickey, The Montreal Gazette

"I hope he's (Vokoun) ready for the Olympics," fellow Czech Jaroslav Spacek.

"I've never seen anything like it before," said Jacques Martin. "Obviously it was a moment of frustration for Keith . They're both very competitive individuals. Obviously it was an accident and it shows they've very competitive."


From Adrian Dater, The Denver Post

Spoke to Craig Anderson briefly about it last night and his two word reply was: "anger management."

From Mike Russo, The Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel  Minneapolis Star-Tribune

Nick Schultz:

Wild Heat of battle? “It’s a frustration thing. You’re chasing a guy back, you stop on one side, he’s on the other and score. I mean, obviously he’s not trying to hit his goalie. It’s a reaction thing. I mean, I can’t even imagine how bad he felt. It looks bad. He just tries to turn around and hit the goal post. Frustration.”

Have you done same before? “I’m not one for really breaking my stick. It happens where you’re pissed off. You see some guys break them over the bench and the stick goes flying up and can hit someone. When you react on the ice like that, it’s something where this can definitely happen. Strange things have happened, freak accidents like that. It’s a freak incident.”

You know ballard? “Yeah, you know he’s not swinging at to hit Vokoun because he let the puck in. He’s swinging because he’s frustrated at himself. It’s a reaction thing, frustrated. It’s just one of those freak accidents.”

Derek Boogaard

"If I did that to Backstrom, I would have had my gear off before I even got to the bench. I would have went straight to the dressing room and hid underneath the bus. And I would have gotten suspended.
Pretty intense though during game.

"He just skated away."

Shane Hnidy:

"It’s a level of frustration. He’s mad and not thinking. It’s such a game of reaction and emptions take control sometimes. I’m sure it’s something he’d love to take back. It’s just a moment of frustration where you’re not thinking and you don’t expect that to happen. It’s usually just your stick.

"Everybody’s done it, in games in practices, on goal posts, over the boards, anytime. MacInnis did that to somebody. It’s just one of those things. It’s rare, it’s unfortunate, but it happens. I can tell you I’ll try to remember this if I ever come close to doing it. I feel bad for him. He has no intent to hurt his goalie. He’s just frustrated at himself."

Cal Clutterbuck

"The thing that kills me, and we were all talking about it in here, is after he hit him in the head, he continued to break his stick over the post. You might want to see if you’re buddie’s OK, you just two-handed him in the face. You know? You would think you’d like bend over and see if he’s alright. He just left him on the ground, smashed his stick and skated to the bench. As we was getting carried off, the whole team’s around him and I couldn’t find Ballard anywhere.

"I’ve smashed my stick over a post before. It’s a bad break for him, but at the same time, he was in the middle of the net. You either break your stick over the crossbar or you swing it at the post from the right. You don’t baseball swing your stick from the middle of the net. Heat of the battle or not, there’s a lot more places you can break a stick than over your own goalie’s head.

"Obviously he didn’t mean to. I’m sure he feels terrible, but from the outside looking in, yeesh."

Niklas Backstrom:

"It’s a bad thing. It’s an accident. It happens. That’s what happens when you play with a big heart and emption, and you really care. Sometimes it’s tough not to show your frustration out there. It could happen to me. It could happen to the guy next to me. He didn’t mean to do it. It’s an accident. Accidents happen."


From David Pollack, The San Jose Mercury News

“I’ve smashed my stick a few times,” Dan Boyle said. “I saw it this morning. That’s pretty unfortunate. . . . I’d feel terrible if I smacked Nabby over the head. Vokuon’s all right, isn’t he?”

Should the team or the league suspend Ballard?

“I don’t think so,” Boyle said. “That’s an accident. It’s emotions – it’s not something you think about doing. It’s just a reaction.”

The same question got a different answer from Evgeni Nabokov.

“I think the team has got to suspend him,” the Sharks goalie said. “I would never probably talk to the guy again.”