There may not be a fiercer rivalry in the Western Hockey League than the feud that exists between the Portland Winterhawks and the Seattle Thunderbirds. The two bitter foes have met six times in the WHL playoffs, with many of those battles being nasty, physical affairs. The rivalry took a vicious turn over the weekend.
Vicious Head Shot
In the first period of Saturday’s game at the Moda Centre, Portland star and Winnipeg Jets prospect Nicolas Petan was a victim of a brutal head shot, courtesy of Seattle defenceman and Montreal Canadiens prospect Evan Wardley. It is very clear that Wardley was targeting Petan’s head and it was a deliberate intent to injure Petan. Wardley was assessed a five-minute major for checking to the head and an automatic game misconduct. Wardley was handed a seven-game suspension by the league for this hit. Amazingly, Petan did get up after the hit and skated to the dressing room. The 2013 second round draft pick did not return to the game. Petan is with the team as the Winterhawks are embarking on a six-game road trip through the Prairies.
Evan Wardley has been suspended 7 games for his hit on Nic Petan Saturday night in Portland.
— Todd Vrooman (@ToddVrooman) October 14, 2014
Petan impressed Jets brass with his skill level and hockey IQ during training camp and the preseason. There was some thought that Petan would stick around with the big club at the start of the season that would have given him a chance to earn some regular season ice time. However, the Jets felt that the undersized forward wasn’t ready for NHL action as of yet, so he was returned to Portland before the season started.
— Tim Hiebert (@TimJHiebert) May 13, 2014
And #NHLJets prospect Nic Petan was reportedly on the Portland team bus for their prairie road trip which starts Friday in Moose Jaw
— 680 CJOB Sports (@CJOBSports) October 15, 2014
Even though there has been no official concussion diagnosis, one has to wonder the damage that could be brought upon by the next check to the head Petan receives.
One need look no further than Eric Lindros who came into the NHL touted as “The Next One.” His combination of size, strength and talent made scouts drool with excitement. It was Lindros who was supposed to be the face of the NHL in the 1990s. However, his career would be cut short thanks to a series of concussions.
Petan has to be careful right now. The best thing for him is to take some time and make sure he’s 100% before he returns to the ice. While it is encouraging to see that Petan is with his teammates on this long road trip, there is no need to rush him. The Winterhawks need to make sure he’s fully recovered. You can be sure that the Jets will be tracking his progress very closely.
I share season tickets for the Winnipeg Jets since their return to the Manitoba capital in 2011. I have written about the Jets since 2011 on various sites.