We can’t possibly have a dirty player.
Pat Kaleta is a hometown kid for the Buffalo Sabres, born and raised in Angola, NY. We can’t hate our own. Heck, fans really shouldn’t hate any of the players in Blue and Gold, but they do. (Nice work shouldering all that rancor, Tim Connolly.)
Meanwhile, it’s been Kaleta that’s gotten the “dog-eye” treatment from players around the league, since his arrival in 2006. Over his 5 seasons, he’s made enough enemies on the ice to earn him a spot on The Hockey News’ list of the Most Hated Players in the NHL, with a #2 ranking. Only the dastardly Matt Cooke is ahead of him on that list.
“Say Kaleta’s name to a player from any NHL team outside of Buffalo and you’re sure to hear words we can’t use in a family publication. If Kaleta found himself on fire, the only way most fans and players would try to “help” would be to pour gasoline and fireworks on it.”
“He’s ahead of Avery, Pronger, and Neil? That is total #$@! How is that even possible?” Those have been the raging questions du jour on Sabres message boards and Twitter chat, since that agitating little list came out.
Seriously folks, why so surprised? Maybe it’s easy to turn a blind eye to dirty play when it’s your own guy fighting for you out there. So, here’s a few samples of why Kaleta doesn’t sell any jerseys outside of Sabreville.
Exhibit A: Before even reaching the NHL, Kaleta had earned a reputation and a role as a player who would hit hard, devastatingly hard, even if there was essentially no time left on the clock. Needless. Hit the :03 second mark of the video:
When the play by play announcer says “and we are going to overtime,” it is never, ever the time to unleash a blindside pop like that.
Exhibit B: February 29, 2008. TSN reviews Kaleta’s shot to the head on Andrei Markov:
Notice the slapshot-like windup of Kaleta’s stick before he uses that momentum on Markov’s head. What is this, professional wrestling? He might as well be skating with a metal chair.
Exhibit C&D: December 27, 2009. Kaleta brains Paul Kariya (potentially ending his career with a concussion; Kariya is out indefinitely with Post-Concussion Syndrome). Just moments prior to that, he slew-footed Erik Johnson, sending the both of them tumbling out of control and into the net. Both escaped injury, by sole virtue of luck. Lalime was lucky enough to not be a part of the collision.
As for the slew-foot, was that actually a leg-scissors takedown? I am more and more convinced that Kaleta indeed watches a lot of pro wrastlin’. Meanwhile, some would argue that Kariya’s size had a role in the outcome of the hit, or that Kariya was “stooping to avoid the hit.” Sorry folks, that was a blind-side hit, Kariya never saw him coming.
Exhibit E: October 8, 2009. Kaleta’s feet leave the ice to deliver an upwards driven shot on Peter Prucha, whose head got in the way of what would be considered a clean hit.
“No high stick, no elbow,” said Harry Neale on the play. No, just a full body missile aimed right into the head region. Leaving your feet on a hit is reckless: sure, his feet only left the ice upon contact, but his entire body was already heaving upwards. Upwards, you know, where someone’s head lives.
Exhibits aside, I acknowledge that hard hitters are a big need on any NHL team. Intimidation and brute force are a part of the game. Unfortunately, Kaleta has a history of crossing the line from brute force to reckless endangerment.
Remember folks, Kaleta has only been in NHL skates for 5 seasons. It took Matt Cooke 10 seasons to gain only one suspension. It wasn’t until joining the Pens in 2008 that Cooke’s play became infamously injurious. Kaleta has been very lucky – so far – that he hasn’t taken more players out of the game. It’s only a matter of time before he does, if he keeps pace with Cooke’s career.
Again, big hits are important. Acknowledged.
It’s just that the stupid hits are more important, because those are the ones that get you in the penalty box – those are the ones that leave NHLers brains’ scarred with lesions and disease.
Lindy Ruff has seen enough. He has benched Kaleta over his reckless play this season. Let’s hope that the benching gave Kaleta the chance he needed to review his style of hard hitting.
Keep it clean, Pat.
UPDATE: I am very much aware that many readers will disagree with the body of evidence I presented here. Feel free to comment below, I always appreciate and respect discourse on such a personal fan matter. It’s never easy to present information as to why one of our own is so hated by NHL players – but I do need to stay objective. Thanks, as always, for reading. (I have posted more links in that comments section as well.)