League disciplinarian, Brendan Shanahan, continues shortening the leash on players and their physical activity on the ice this season. Buffalo Sabres’ forward, and hometown favorite, Patrick Kaleta, has been a dealt a 4 game suspension and a $19,621.64 fine (to be forwarded to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund) for his alleged headbutt on Jakub Voracek of the Philadelphia Flyers during Buffalo’s 3-2 home loss on Wednesday. The ruling came after Kaleta had a hearing with Shanahan.
Here’s a clip of the action:
It’s pretty clear Kaleta charged his opponent… but an intentional headbutt? His team was in a quick 2-0 hole at the time, on home ice no less, and while fighting for the puck, Kaleta did what he does best- get in his opponent’s face and be aggressive to energize the fans and more importantly, his teammates. Whether that happened or not is up for debate, as is whether or not Kaleta delivered a targeted headbutt to Voracek.
Or is it? Shanahan broke down the incident in a video posted yesterday where he thoroughly explains himself, going as far as providing narrated slow motion evidence and replays of similar past offenses by Kaleta. Check it out:
Here’s what Kaleta had to say on the play, “I was going for the puck, I was just trying to push the guy off the puck. I don’t really make the decisions on that stuff so I won’t let it slow me down. Rome wasn’t built in one day and I’m trying to become a different hockey player, a more threat to the positive side of our team whether it’s penalty kill or just working with the puck.”
In the video, Shanahan makes a compelling case, for sure. “Sheriff Shanny” has drawn a line in the ice, sending a transparent message to the league that when players cross that line, they will be caught, publicly called out, and subsequently punished. What’s strange about this call though, is that during the very same game Sabres star scorer, Thomas Vanek, suffered a scary looking laceration when a Flyers player clearly jammed his stick in Vanek’s face during a scrum in front of the net. The strike drew blood, and Vanek didn’t return to the ice for 20 minutes. He commented on the wound, “Right away I was a little scared. All of a sudden I couldn’t see, and I felt like someone sliced me.” Funny thing is, Voracek is totally fine while Vanek suffered obvious damage, but no repercussion has been dealt to the offending Flyer.
Whilst Shanahan is getting “intentional” headbutt offenders under wraps, apparently grabbing an opposing player’s helmet to intentionally try to snap his head back like a loaded catapult is still ok, as is using an opposing players helmet strap as a garrote. Cody Bass exemplifies both acts in the video and photo below, both taken from the Sabres/Columbus Blue Jackets game just 6 days prior to Pat Kaleta’s headbutt incident:
Buffalo fans will most likely defend Pat Kaleta’s action against Voracek, albeit uncomfortably (+1 aggression in trying to make a play, -1 playing dirty). Meanwhile, upon learning of Kaleta’s punishment, fans of the other 29 NHL teams are probably happier than Christina Hendricks‘ husband after a vivacious night on the town. It’s evident he has made many enemies outside of Buffalo during his young 6 year career. In the past year, Kaleta has ranked on numerous lists for the Top 10 most hated players in the NHL, clocking in at #2 by TheHockeyNews and even #1 by the HockeyIndependent. Yep, Shanahan’s verdict may result in raucous celebrations by fans from hockey cities that don’t end in “uffallo.”
Being a Western New York native and playing for the Sabres (sorry, Tim Kennedy) is enough to win the staunch support of Buffalo fans, and Kaleta fits the mold perfectly.
There’s all that, plus he has given the Sabres fan base plenty to cheer about when he’s making things happen. His scrappy physicality, aggressive attitude, and motor mouth are strongly reminiscent of another fan favorite Sabre-instigator, Matthew Barnaby. Considering Kaleta’s style and on ice personality, it’s pretty obvious he grew up watching Barnaby play for the Sabres. He does wear his number, after all.
Perhaps Patrick Kaleta watched this next clip before the Flyers game and got some ideas from Rod Brind’Amour:
And just for kicks:
Oh, the good ol’days!
Depending on what side of the fence you’re on, here are 10 clips gloriously showcasing why Sabres fans love Pat Kaleta… or 10 clips on why everyone else hates him more than a loudly mewing feline on a Sunday morning.
#10) Trickery in the guise of assistance.
#9) He’ll nail your guy then fight you too.
#8) See above.
#7) That celebration.
#6) Two goals off turnovers from ex-Sabres, one being a shorthanded game winner.
#5) One thousand times, YES!
#4) His first ever NHL game, home against the Ottawa Senators, when total chaos broke loose and he played enforcer.
#3) Easily the best ass kicking dished out by a Buffalo Sabre in the post-Lockout era.
#2) Briere, who? Vanek, who? Patrick Kaleta, that’s who. Playoffs, baby.
#1) Have you seen these? Brutal!
Who else is looking forward to November 12th when Kaleta returns from his suspension to join his team in taking on the Boston Bruins on the road? Probably not Brendan Shanahan.