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Flyers' Downie Fueled by Adversity

Written by Dan Liberg.
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Steve Downie... If you do not know who he is by now, then chances are you have found this article by mistake, and are not an avid hockey fan.

A rookie with the Philadelphia Flyers, Downie has been at the center of a media controversy since the pre-season game against the Ottawa Senators on Sept. 25 over his major hit on Dean McAmmond. The 20-game suspension he received for the hit has been talked about in every broadcast of every game in which he has since played. At the time of the suspension, Downie was an over-eager youngster trying to crack an NHL lineup that was already deep in talent at the forward position. He laid McAmmond out with a vicious hit, but, frankly, worse things have happened in the past in the NHL, with much less, if any, reaction. The fact that this suspension was longer than what Todd Bertuzzi received for his assault on Steve Moore is pathetic (and don't get me started on the lockout year counting toward Bertuzzi's suspension length - we're talking games here folks, otherwise everyone was suspended during the lockout year). But, to get back on track, the NHL is trying to crack down on dangerous hits, so Downie was used as an example. It was a dangerous hit and, undeniably, deserved a suspension, but the length of which is debatable.

In Downie's first call-up this season, he played two games and averaged 5:08 TOI as a fourth line checker. This is not the type of role Downie should be playing. After those two games, with nothing special happening, he was sent back to the AHL for a month. Now in his second call-up, he has solidified his spot in the Flyers' lineup. In the wake of an injury to Joffrey Lupul, Downie has stepped into a scoring line with Scott Hartnell and all-star forward Mike Richards. Downie scored his first NHL goal in the game that saw Lupul injured. However, Downie, again, stirred things up with an incident involving Jason Blake in that same game. During a fight between the two, as the linesmen tried to separate Downie and Blake, Downie's arms were not adequately tied-up and he took a late shot at Blake, causing Blake to have a nearly swollen-shut eye. Blake, earlier in the season, had been saying he thought Downie should've been suspended for even longer than he was, but was also taking cheap shots throughout the game against the Flyers. Have people forgotten that this is hockey? It is a rough sport, and if you're gonna talk trash you better be able to back it up. Downie took a late shot (no one is debating that), but, honestly, who would not be just a tad miffed at someone for saying something like that, and not seek to exact some revenge? I know I would.

So, Downie again gets labeled a "punk" and a "goon," but then goes on to score two goals and five assists for seven points in his next nine games. I cannot name many goons who score points like that. He also does great work in the corners, cycling the puck well with his linemates and creating scoring opportunities. Sure, he has 40 PIMs in 13 games, but that also includes 10 minutes for quite possibly the stupidest penalty in hockey (not having his jersey tied down). This also includes two fights. Which by the way, if you have yet to see the clip of Downie's fight with New Jersey's David Clarkson, go find it right now.

Downie not only bloodies Clarkson, but talks throughout the entire fight, and at the end is laughing while dodging punches and popping back up like a jack-in-the-box. If you're not entertained by that, then you need to get a pulse. Note to the readers, do not listen to the audio of the clip if it is the New Jersey announcers. The Devils' announcers try to blame the cut near Clarkson's left eye as Downie "scratching at him" while trying to pull off Clarkson's helmet, but they disregard the fact that he went for the right side of the helmet.

Steve Downie fights New Jersey Devils.

Steve Downie, soon to be fined for shoving his fist in opposing players' mouths.


Jan. 24 was a highly anticipated Flyers-Penguins game given how heated the last matchup was in a Flyers 8-2 victory. During the throttling of the Penguins, Sidney Crosby made contact with Marty Biron behind the net, followed by Biron challenging Crosby to a fight. Crosby sat out the last several minutes of the game from that point on while Georges Laraque later intentionally slid into Biron, receiving no suspension. Tempers flared leading up into the next contest as this game was sure to be a good one. Late in the 2-2 second-period tie, as Downie and Laraque were chasing a puck into the corner, Laraque shoved Downie head first into the boards. He could've pushed him much harder, but nonetheless it was a check from behind. It was said earlier this season with other hits, and it applies in this situation too: Players need to stop checking other players into the boards when they can see the numbers. Do we need to treat them like players at in-house leagues and put a little stop sign above a player's name on the back of their jersey? And of course now, there are those who are saying Downie got what he deserved. What's with the hypocrisy? If people are getting up in arms about players laying out vicious hits, it should apply in all cases. Does Laraque now deserve to be driven head first into the boards? If Downie does that the next time the Flyers play the Penguins, will people say "Laraque got what he deserved," or will they say "There goes that goon, Downie, again, what an idiot."

The point of all of this is that most people have seen the suspension, maybe heard some of the stories from his days in junior hockey, and judged Downie as a goon. But he is actually a very talented hockey player. Granted, Downie is still young, still developing. He has a temper that he is learning how to control, but he's a fireball of a player who is exciting to watch. The kid is a prototypical Flyer; an old-time hockey player. Some might even say a dying breed. The Hanson brothers would be proud.

Few people take notice of the fact that Downie's father died in a car accident while driving him to hockey practice when Downie was 7 years old (and has a hearing disorder as a result of the accident). Think that did not have an effect on him? Try telling this to Downie, a simple blue-collar farm kid, who literally had to fight for every opportunity given to him.



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