After practice today, Sean O’Donnell discussed, in detail, the incident in Kansas City with the Islanders’ Matt Martin that led to O’Donnell’s suspension (three preseason games, two regular-season games). O’Donnell explains his side of the incident, and what led up to it…
O’DONNELL: “That’s the main thing, the leading up to it. You look at an isolated play and it doesn’t look good, but when you’re watching the game… They had talked us about `head shots.’ Not even necessarily elbows, but just shots, unnecessary blows to the head when the guy is vulnerable. I felt like there were a couple times earlier in the game where they had some guys, who were trying to make a name — whatever, they’re trying to make the team — but I felt like Drew and some of our other players had targets on their backs. They were hitting them pretty hard. They were legal, but they were hard, hard hits.
“Nothing was really said. A couple times, I spoke to one of the guys and challenged him to a fight. Raitis challenged a guy and obviously Westgarth was doing his best. (The Islanders) didn’t really want to. Then I saw Martin hit a couple people. Like I said, not dirty but questionable, enough to raise your eyebrows. Then I saw him coming on Drew and I yelled over, `Heads up.’ Drew got out of the way, but I felt that at the last second, instead of just missing his check, he came up with his shoulder and clipped Drew in the chin. I saw Drew’s head go back and so I went over there.
“I probably should have given him a little slash on the ankles and then fought him, but I didn’t. I reacted. There’s a part of me that feels kind of paternal toward Drew. Maybe I overreacted a little bit, but I went over there and I wanted to initiate a fight. I gave him a cross-check, and in my mind I gave him a cross-check right by the shoulder, in the upper chest. I skated quite a ways. I skated probably 15, 20 feet. When I did hit him with the cross-check, my momentum carried him over and that’s what knocked him over and he crumpled down to the ice. You can see where I hit him, and where he ended up was about 10 feet away. So it was more like, I hit him and we kind of slid.
“There was no film. I felt that, at no time, did my stick make contact with any part of his head area. The refs felt that when I hit him, it (came up) and I got him. There’s no tape. The refs felt it was one way and I felt it was the other way.”
Helene Elliott of the Times relayed Dean Lombardi’s reaction to O’Donnell, in which Lombardi expressed disappointment that O’Donnell would lose two games’ worth of salary and jokingly hinted that he wished he could pay O’Donnell to be a scout in those games.
“How about an extension for a year?” O’Donnell said with a laugh. “I’m not ready to start scouting yet.”