Miklasz Right: Courtnall Hit Cheap Shot

By Pollack, Joe | St. Louis Journalism Review, June 1998 | Go to article overview

Miklasz Right: Courtnall Hit Cheap Shot


Pollack, Joe, St. Louis Journalism Review


Well, the Blues are gone for another summer, which will again leave the St. Louis Post-Dispatch sports department distraught. There seems to be a lust for shinny on the ice at the Post, with four or five writers at each game, here and on the road. I don't know if there would have been sufficient staff to cover another divisional playoff series, much less the Stanley Cup finals, but more important, I hope management saved some of the travel budget to deal with the media madhouse that will surround Mark McGwire when he closes in on Roger Maris' home run record and Hack Wilson's RBI mark later in the baseball season.

After all, how many stories speculating on the future of Brett Hull and Al MacInnis can be printed between now and July 1? Just wait and see.

I don't know how fans and media reacted, but I relished the irony that surrounded the final game and Geoff Courtnall. I thought Bernie Miklasz showed insight, intelligence and courage when he ripped Courtnall for his action during the series against the Kings, and I saw the perfect retribution when Courtnall took still another stupid penalty in Game 6 against the Red Wings, and Detroit promptly sealed the Blues' doom with a power play goal to make it 3-0.

Miklasz and I seem to be in a minority, but I agree with the Post columnist that Courtnall's action in L.A. was the cheapest of cheap shots. I was watching the game, and I thought Courtnall's run at Jamie Storr was unconscionable. I believe in playing hard and playing tough, and softball foes through the years will confirm, but I think any deliberate attempt to injure an opponent should call for immediate ejection, and suspension as well.

Were this the National Football League, disciplinary action would have been taken against Courtnall, because the league often reviews film and assesses punishment on flagrant fouls that went unnoticed at the time they occurred. It may not change the outcome of the game, but the player is warned that he is being watched. In the NHL, which piously decries violence on one hand and solidly supports it on the other, fighting is the name of the game, and cheap shots, too. Writers and broadcasters generally act the same way, but I thought Miklasz showed wisdom and courage with his stand.

At the same time, I was surprised by the action of Larry Robinson, coach of the Kings. He allowed Storr to stay in the game, despite the fact that the goalie was obviously confused and shaken by Courtnall's mugging. He was bothered by headaches, and probably had double-vision, after the game. If Robinson didn't pull him immediately, at least for long enough to rest a little and recover his wits, he certainly should have after the first or second goal.

Of course the Blues played well. Here was a chance to come back, and they were going to be on a power play for five minutes, regardless of what happened. They did come back, but I think they had an extra advantage against Storr, who looked like a sitting duck out there.

Somehow, the Blues' power play performance, against a goalie obviously not at his best, impressed someone from Sports Illustrated, because as the Blues were in the midst of taking their lumps from the Wings, SI, again proving its sports wisdom and judgment, proclaimed the Blues' power play the best of the eight then-remaining playoff teams, saying: "Point men Al MacInnis and Steve Duchesne (oh, that Steve Duchesne) and forward Brett Hull are the core of the most frightening unit in hockey, which scored four times during a five-minute major against the Los Angeles Kings in the first round. When Macinnis winds up for a slapper, duck!"

At least the magazine had the wisdom to give the Red Wings the No. 2 rating among the power plays.

I feel sorry for the Blues, being in the same division with the Red Wings, who are so good in every aspect of the game. The Blues were out-played, out-coached and out-managed by Detroit, and it made me wonder what sort of dynasty the Blues might have established if Scotty Bowman had remained here and the various Blues ownerships had decided to spend the necessary money. …

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