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(Nathan Denette)
(Nathan Denette)

Usual Suspects

TV's talking heads come down hard on Cormier Add to ...

Often, the talking heads of Canadian TV sports are guilty of encouraging thuggish behaviour in hockey. Boys will be boys etc.... But Rouyn's Patrice Cormier lands beyond the pale -- even for them. As Usual Suspects noted during the just-concluded World Junior hockey championships, Cormier apparently thinks it clever to deliver surreptitious "Gordie Howe" elbows to the heads of unsuspecting opponents -- such as Sweden's Anton Rodin.

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Sunday, Cormier was at it again -- this time in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League -- where he unleashed one of his nasty head shots on Quebec's Mikael Tam. The cheap shot left Tam convulsing on the ice with a severe concussion and damage to his teeth. The QMJHL has yet to conclude its investigation of the attack on Tam, but some are suggesting Cormier get a lifetime ban like the one assessed on Michael Liambis of Erie for his goonish attack on Ben Fanelli.

Monday, even the normally lenient Nick Kypreos of Sportsnet was calling Cormier's behaviour "gutless... as dirty as I've seen." On his Talk640 show, Bill Watters called it "premeditated". Pierre McGuire of TSN/NBC - who tends to the non-fighting side of the issue - told Usual Suspects, "I thought his hit against Sweden was a one-off based on emotion and a carryover from last year's gold medal game. This is an illustration that good people can do bad things. Very sad."

You have to wonder what message Hockey Canada was sending in making Cormier the captain of Team Canada. His 118 minutes in penalties in 2008-'09 do not speak to a player whose life's goal is to win the Lady Byng Trophy. But Hockey Canada types still bristled when TV replays of Cormier's cheap shot on the Swede and a Finn were repeatedly shown.

What might be appropriate in the wake of Cormier's actions is a media statement from Hockey Canada deploring the actions and stressing that -- its previous endorsement of him notwithstanding -- Cormier's behaviour does not in any way reflect the values of the national team's program. Because in an era of awareness about head shots, silence is no longer an option.

Tipping The Scales: Nice of Hockey Night In Canada's Ron MacLean to credit his journalistic "Spidey senses" in the now-famous indictment of Vancouver's Alex Burrows on Saturday. The HNIC host told Matthew Sekeres of the Globe and Mail on Monday that he combined his own refereeing experience with "empirical experience" to conclude that he could not believe the Canucks forward's claim he'd been threatened with revenge by referee Stephane Auger for high crimes and misdemeanours against the zebra.

In MacLean's analysis, Burrows is a diver. Ergo, his word is untrustworthy (as if one has something to do with the other). As for Auger-- while MacLean-- a certified referee himself-- never interviewed Auger, the nine-time Gemini Award winner somehow concluded, "It's inconceivable for an official to tell a player he'd get him back."

The Canucks and their fans are livid over the piece, but MacLean's colleague, HNIC executive producer Sherali Najak, told Sekeres that "There are no agendas" in MacLean's reporting. This in spite of MacLean's clearly sarcastic tone where he had a prostrate Burrows saying, "Don't worry. Has [the referee]signalled five yet?" Or when he showed Burrows waving off medical help to get "more bang for the buck."

It's not the first time MacLean has acted more as prosecutor than moderator on a hockey issue. MacLean told Sekeres he won't apologize for his actions on Saturday when he and NHL vice president Colin Campbell spent 11 minutes of the nation's time on a video carving of Burrows. What MacLean and CBC did not do in that lengthy piece was attempt to get Burrows' own version of the events being dissected - a basic premise in balanced reporting. And no amount of "empirical evidence" can rectify that journalistic error.

He Said What?: Live TV and radio can be a cruel beast. Words come out sideways and ideas are garbled in the process. Usual Suspects recalls a time when we were trying to tell a radio audience that baseball star Pete Rose was "two hits shy" of Ty Cobb's record. Only it didn't come out that way. Which is a way of explaining that Mike Greenberg-- host of ESPN's Mike & Mike TV/ radio simulcast-- is not the first to deal with unwanted inference in a live broadcast.

Returning from a commercial break on Monday, Greenberg appeared to refer to Martin Luther King Day as "Martin Luther Coon Day," He corrected himself almost immediately. Later that same day, Greenberg released a statement: "I just ... found out about the mess that was created by my garbling a sentence on our show this morning; I apologize for not addressing it sooner. And I'm sorry that my talking too fast - and slurring my words - might have given people who don't know our show the wrong impression about us, and about me."

Faulty Towels: Finally, can't stay up to watch TSN's late-night action from the Australian Open Tennis? Pity. According to Australia's www.theage.com, the first few days have been ripper. In one instance, members of Marcos Daniel's entourage had to restrain the Brazilian player from going all Ron Artest. Daniel had just lost to Alejandro Falla in straight sets when he took exception to a comments from a spectator (an obnoxious fan at the Oz Open? Never.). The simmering Brazilian was pulled away by his pals after confronting the heckler - who's lucky he didn't sass Patrice Cormier instead of a tennis dude.

The heckler was one of 15 spectators given the toss by security at the Open so far (we're just four days in folks). The biggest ejection came during a January 18 match featuring a Croatian player - leaving Victoria's premier John Brumby fuming about "loutish behaviour". Brumby declined to blame the Croatian community but he did say, ""They don't do any credit to themselves, they don't do any credit to the community, they don't do any credit to Victoria, they're an embarrassment."

In other gripping down-under page turners, the match between Christophe Rochus and Donald Young was stopped for 40 minutes after a ball boy wet his pants on court 10. "The ball kid peed on himself. It was unfortunate," Young told reporters. "It took a while to replace him. Then they had to put the sawdust down, or whatever you put down when somebody throws up. Then they had to use the blower (to dry the court), but the blower had no gas in it, so that took even more time." No word if Seinfeld's Kramer was the offending ball boy.

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