Please recall on July 2 when fans of the New York Rangers were up in arms about the signing of tough guy Donald Brashear(notes), the same tough guy who knocked out their best penalty killer in the opening round of the playoffs this past spring? Head coach John Tortorella feels there shouldn't be any hard feelings, at least within the locker room:
"I don't agree at all with what happened with Blair Betts(notes). We all know that was wrong," Tortorella said of the blind-side hit to the head from the then-Washington winger that concussed the now former Rangers center and broke his orbital bone. "But . . . but . . . you also have to understand the situation that we're in now where we're looking to make changes on the hockey club and believe that Donald has a unique presence that will help us.
"I don't condone anyone trying to hurt another player. I don't know that's what happened with Bettsy, but if I ever think that Donald is trying to injure someone while he plays for the Rangers, that will be addressed.
"Things happen in hockey. We have to block out what happened to Blair Betts. The organization has to block it out," Tortorella said. "If any of our guys have an issue with Donald, then settle it like men, because they are going to be teammates and they are going to have to respect each other."
It's going to be tough for those Rangers that were on the roster for Game 6 of the series with Washington to accept Brashear into the fold. The hit on Betts was a big moment in the series, one that was part of the changing tide in the final three games in which the Capitals roared back.
Then again, this is sports that we're talking about and in the era of free agency players are likely used to turning the page and forgetting about previous actions from new teammates. New York was in a similar situation when they made long-time New Jersey Devils agitator Bobby Holik(notes) a very rich man in 2002 (though he never was classified as a "goon" like Brashear is affectionately known). Ottawa had to do it when former Pittsburgh pest Jarkko Ruutu(notes), who got under their skins in two consecutive first-round matchups in 2007 and 2008, signed with the Senators last summer. And finally, the Dallas Stars had to come to the realization that Sean Avery(notes) would be annoying opponents instead of them for a change.
As we said in the Juy 2 post, the first time Brashear lays a momentum changing hit on an opponent or knocks out a New York Islander or Devil in a fight, fans and those teammates who may still be on the fence about him will come around.
- John Tortorella
- Blair Betts