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Jamie Heward of the Tampa Bay Lightning is taken off the ice on a stretcher after being checked into the boards in this Jan. 1, 2009 file photo in Washington. (Luis Alvarez/The Canadian Press)
Jamie Heward of the Tampa Bay Lightning is taken off the ice on a stretcher after being checked into the boards in this Jan. 1, 2009 file photo in Washington. (Luis Alvarez/The Canadian Press)

Usual Suspects

Knocking out head shots 'the right thing' to do Add to ...

Let's do a comparison: Four million viewers tune in for the NHL's brand of fightin' and feudin' hockey in Game 7 of the 2008-09 Stanley Cup final; 20 million viewers watch the Olympic brand - bereft of vigilante shots and pitiless decapitations - for the 2010 men's gold medal.

Not a fair comparison? All right, assume half the people watching the Olympics will never watch another game. That's still 10 million versus four million - sounds like a pretty fair market survey.

So, please, don't take those head shots out of hockey. You might lose the crowd.

The disconnect between the NHL mindset and those who function in a real world was never clearer than Toronto radio host Bob McCown lecturing NHL vice-president Colin Campbell over the league's new blindside-hits rule during last Wednesday's Prime Time Sports .

As Campbell listened, McCown scolded him, saying what the outsiders (and yes, some NHL people) think: By refusing to assign automatic suspensions for acts such as Pittsburgh Penguins forward Matt Cooke's recent hit to the head of Marc Savard of the Boston Bruins, the NHL has created a "toothless tiger."

Said McCown to Campbell: "You're the sheriff, you don't know what the consequences are."

Campbell's reply was about how much the sport had cleaned up in recent decades, and the NHL shouldn't be held up to the examples of other leagues who are perhaps more serious about eliminating head shots.

The NHL's apologist in chief then tried to defend the decision this week not to suspend Cooke, saying the Penguins perp hadn't broken any rules (this was not intent to injure?) in cold-bloodedly braining Savard. No penalty was assessed during the game.

"Tell me what [Cooke]did wrong," Campbell pleaded.

McCown then played an audio clip from Tampa Bay Lightning star Vincent Lecavalier, who said the NHL was protecting the wrong guy in absolving Cooke while Savard loses his season, maybe his career.

"You've got to understand, Bob, that Lecavalier's one of Cooke's victims," Campbell said in an effort to deflect the stinging criticism. "We've allowed [shoulder hits to the head]since Howie Meeker played, the Bentleys, and we're just changing it now."

Campbell suggested - in the way hockey people just throw assumptions out there - that there would have been the same violence had Canada and Russia played a five-game series at the Olympics.

Channelling his inner Brian Burke, Campbell played the consistency card: "You can't do the easy thing … you have to do the right thing."

No doubt Savard will have a different opinion of what constitutes "the right thing" when the blinding headaches stop.

On Thin Ice

Legendary TV sports producer Tommy Roy is producing this weekend's NBC coverage of golf's CA Championship. As always, the putting surfaces at the famed Doral resort in Miami will be crucial - the TifEagle Bermuda greens are a far cry from the slippery surfaces of the recent Olympic long-track speed skating in Vancouver.

Roy was in charge of NBC's coverage of the 2010 Winter Games event - where the ultra-modern electric ice resurfacers failed to get the job done.

"We had all these delays, and we were wondering how are we going to finish the meet this way?" Roy told Usual Suspects. "There will always be a place in my heart for Calgary and that old-fashioned Zamboni they sent us. You never saw anyone happier to see a Zamboni in their life than me. I'm just glad it all turned out so well."

Testing 1, 2, 3 …

How private is private when it comes to personal information about pro football prospects? Once again this year, results from supposedly private intelligence exams - the Wonderlic: a 12-minute, multiple-choice test to gauge learning and problem-solving abilities - administered to potential NFL draftees have been made public in the media.

This has always been a cause for some mirth - it was once reported that Tennessee Titans pivot Vince Young scored six out of 50, while Miami Dolphins great Dan Marino chalked up 14 to 16 (depending on the source). This year, it's the 22 from 2008 Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Tim Tebow that's drawing snickers. Sam Bradford was the brainiac among QBs with a 36 (24 is considered average for the position).

NFL prospects expect their 40-yard time and bench-press reps to be made public. But intelligence tests constitute a very different form of personal information that ought not to be disseminated.

Perhaps the most surprising thing about the debate over Wonderlic privacy is how little debate there is. The league can't stop the info getting out, players grudgingly accept it and the media simply plays along.

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