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Posted at 9:35 AM ET, 03/ 3/2011

Trevor Gillies has no place in the NHL

By Ryan Cooper

It came out yesterday that former NHL tough guy Bob Probert suffered from CTE, the degenerative brain condition that has been so prevalent in former NFL players and other assorted athletes.

Concussions are a major issue in sports right now, and one could argue that they should be a much larger issue than they are. As sports fans, we cheer for these people and watch them push their bodies to the limit, often to wildly unsafe degrees, and then we feel sad when we watch them degenerate so terribly in their old age. But really, there’s nothing we can do about the situation. We’re utterly helpless to enact real change that can really protect our athletes because the very nature of contact sports is, well, contact. We love big hits, and we marvel at the sight of 230 and 250 pound guys crashing into each other at breathtaking speeds. We just choose not to think about the consequences while the game is happening, and that’s just human nature.

But where we can make a change in the name of safety, and we can do something to protect those who need protection the most, I feel we are ethically and morally obligated as a society of humane individuals to do that. This brings me to the case of the Islanders' Trevor Gillies who struck again last night with a hit that directly targeted the head of Minnesota’s Cal Clutterbuck, in his first game back after serving a nine-game ban for similarly targeting the head of Pittsburgh’s Eric Tangradi.

Gillies is a cancer on this game. He is the epitome of everything in it that is wrong, because he has no respect for the bodies of his opponents. It’s well within the rules to hit a guy, but the stunts he pulls could literally kill another player one day, or leave them unable to cognitively function on a normal level. That, to me, is absolutely hideous, and he has no place in the NHL.

So what do you do with a guy like that? Do you throw the book at him and give him 40 or 50 games? Do you suspend him the rest of this season? I feel like those would be inadequate measures. There is something inherently in the culture of hockey that promotes thugs like this, and even if you take away Gillies, someone else will step up in his place.

Please don’t take this to mean I am anti-fighting, because I’m not. Hockey is a game with roots in the frontier, and fighting has been a part of it as long as the game has been around. But even the toughest of tough guys know that there is a way to do things, and this isn’t a part of that. Gillies plays 2:50 a game, and his only mission seems to be going out of his way to intentionally hurt as many people as possible. As fans, and as people involved in the game of hockey, we have to stop enabling guys like Gillies, and remove him and those like him from the game immediately.

By Ryan Cooper  | March 3, 2011; 9:35 AM ET
Categories:  Capitals, Ryan Cooper  | Tags:  NHL, Ryan Cooper  
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Well said! These guys have a right to retire from hockey, not be buried as a result of the game.

Posted by: droberts3 | March 3, 2011 10:11 AM | Report abuse

The Islanders organization needs to take the first step at disciplining Gillies. But the NHL needs to act as well and show to the rest of the goons in the league that this kind of crap won't be tolerated. Gillies should be banned for at least 1/2 a season.

Posted by: mrnoah | March 3, 2011 10:15 AM | Report abuse

Agreed on Gilles. Unless the organization itself is sanctioned in a way that hurts - loss of a high draft pick, a substantial fine, a suspension of the coach, etc - then there's no incentive for them to reign these players in.

After the lockout in '04, there was a much greater spirit of fraternity in the league than there is now. Players united across team and national origin and that respect was evident on the ice. A lot of that has been lost. Nowhere is the desire to intentionally inflict serious injury to another player than in fights. The players here target each other's heads with their fists and already this year there have been several concussions and broken facial bones related to fights.

Posted by: RedLitYogi | March 3, 2011 10:27 AM | Report abuse

I wonder if the person writing this crap actually saw the video. I mean actually look at it.

Clutterbuck cross checked another Islander and Gilles, in sticking up for his teammate, hit him from the side and in my opinion didn't target the head.

I'm not sticking up for Gilles, just pointing out the facts. If he gets a suspension, then Clutterbuck should get one as well, as it was very close to the hit that Matt Cooke had against Columbus.

Feel free to disagree, just putting that out there.

Posted by: jwash4472 | March 3, 2011 10:30 AM | Report abuse

Easiest way to solve this problem...if a player is suspended for a deliberate hit to the head or dangerous play, the team looses that bench spot for at least 1/3 of the time the player is suspended (obviously we couldn't force a team to play a man down for half a least for a first offense.

so often the guy getting suspended is a goon who plays 5 minutes a the team doesn't really care if they are suspended...make the team suffer and plays like that will drop dramatically!

Posted by: capscoach | March 3, 2011 10:44 AM | Report abuse


didn't see what clutterbuck did...and it's not relevant...2 wrongs don't make a right (at least that way)

the hit was TERRIBLE it CLEARLY targeted the head...he should be thrown out of the league...this is nowhere close to a first offense for this guy

Posted by: capscoach | March 3, 2011 10:47 AM | Report abuse

Even if he didn't make a dirty hit, a guy with 1 point, 2:52 average TOI, and over 124 PIMs in 33 games has no place in the NHL. Coaches and GMs that put these kinds of guys on the ice should similarly be dismissed.

Posted by: thiazzi | March 3, 2011 11:05 AM | Report abuse

Garth Snow and Capuano are part of the problem obviously......

"I didn't think [Clutterbuck's] back was totally turned," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. "It's obviously the league's discretion for those situations."

It was Gillies first game back after serving a nine-game suspension as a result of his role in the brawl with the Penguins on Feb. 11.

"I just went over and finished my hit," Gillies said. "I had no intention of hurting him. I'm not sure [about any disciplinary action]. It's up to the league."

Posted by: larryp2 | March 3, 2011 11:45 AM | Report abuse

It doesn't matter if Gillies "had no intention of hurting him". The 1st point of contact was the head, he is a repeat offender (1st game back). He should get at least 25 games & NYI should get fined.

I'm guessing if NYI didn't suck so bad, this guy would be in the AHL.

Posted by: chriscaps | March 3, 2011 11:54 AM | Report abuse

Probert's role in the NHL was very similar to Gillies role in the NHL. Unless you're a Don Cherry or Mike Milbury willing to speak out of both sides of your mouth and use many red herring possible, you can't say that you want to do something about headshots and player safety but continue to advocate for the inclusion of fighting in hockey.

Take fighting out of the game and many of the worst offenders for cheapshots are out the game as well.

Posted by: CapsNut | March 3, 2011 12:32 PM | Report abuse

Gillies a cancer. Right. How come there was no mention in your article about Clutterbuck trying to behead an Islander before the Gillies incident? Is Clutterbuck a cancer as well? With all due respect, did you even see the game or are merely re-reporting what others have reported first and then slanting the argument to fit your thesis. Gordie Howe ring a bell? Ovechkin is far more dangerous than Gillies will ever be. Same with Cooke and Rutuu and Max Lapierre. Two unrelate incidents in a short time frame don't create a trend.

The hits are obviously very dangerous, and something has to be done, but there are a few other names that should come before Gillies.

Posted by: Fletch22 | March 3, 2011 12:37 PM | Report abuse


He has similar point production in the AHL. He's worthless and harmful to the sport as a whole, let alone the world's elite league.

Posted by: thiazzi | March 3, 2011 12:48 PM | Report abuse

@jwash I did agree w/ you until i saw the whole thing from another angle. Watch from the 2 min mark.

BTW Clutterbuck did get 2 for boarding.

@chriscaps the isles are an AHL caliber team. If Gilles were signed to any other NHL team, he would be most likely be playing in the ECHL.

Posted by: maff84 | March 3, 2011 1:03 PM | Report abuse

Nonsense. The whole article. Short on actual facts an long on cliched editorializing. Be honest Ryan, did you know who Gillies was before three weeks ago? Where's his suspension record? If he's so dangerous, why didn't you include his suspension record?

I'm trying to be respectful, but freely tossing around words like 'cancer' and 'the epitome of everything that is wrong' should merit some additional facts.

Posted by: Fletch22 | March 3, 2011 1:08 PM | Report abuse


Fighting has nothing to do with headshots. There are very few head injuries that result from fights. A broken facial bone yes, but not brain damage.

Repeal the instigator, and the nonsense goes away for the most part.

By the way, I'm pretty sure it's Cherry who is responsible for the stop sign on the back of youth hockey sweaters.

Posted by: Fletch22 | March 3, 2011 1:23 PM | Report abuse

Here's a far better take on the incident. My intent is not be disrespectful of the author, but I do not believe that Gillies primary motivation is to hurt people, as the author states. If a writer is
going to torch a player, there should be plenty of fact to back the accusations up.

Some of the comments here show a severe lack of knowledge of the player in question, and the game itself.

Posted by: Fletch22 | March 3, 2011 2:04 PM | Report abuse

@Fletch 22

So cheapshots cause TBI but punches to the head (which cause broken facial bones) don't???

Tell that to Probert's widow.

Hades, tell that to anybody in boxing.

Repeal the instigator and the like of Gillies will go after the star players knowing full-well that they can get them off the ice for at least five minutes, maybe more if the star player doesn't fight back.

But hey, he won't cause a TBI right?

Posted by: CapsNut | March 3, 2011 3:55 PM | Report abuse

When will the players get it: real hockey fans want to see the talented players do what they do best--dangle the puck and score. I tune in to see guys like Green and Clutterbuck and, yes, Crysbaby, do what they do. I don't tune in for jerks like Gilles. Idiots like him debase the game by putting the star's lights out.

Everyone in hockey, especially the players themselves, need to understand that it is in their economic self-interest to preserve and protect the talent so that the game can shine.

Posted by: Landshark | March 3, 2011 5:02 PM | Report abuse

I give maximum credit to Gillies and the Islanders for standing up for one another. I just wish the Caps had a similar attitude.

Posted by: poguesmahone | March 4, 2011 10:34 AM | Report abuse

I'd be interested to hear what Capitals Bob Woods has to say about this as he played alongside him in Mississippi of the ECHL. Gillies could barely fight and it was bad when he did then. Pretty much it was all he tried to do, but didn't win very many at the time. I was shocked to see he had actually made the show!

Posted by: mar603 | March 4, 2011 11:20 AM | Report abuse


I have no clue if punches to the head from a hockey standpoint cause TBI. But I know that in hockey, it's rare that a punch even makes contact. By the way, Probert did enough coke and booze to kill a
cow. It's entirely possible that had a far greater impact on his brain than hockey did.

Forget all that though. The point is that this article is dishonest. Gillies has no prior history before the Pens game. Where's that mentioned in the article. This article is more of cheapshot than any Gillies has done.

Cooper took the lazy route. He could've taken the tough route and defended Gillies. Ovechkin and Cooke both have far longer rap sheets.

Posted by: Fletch22 | March 5, 2011 8:56 AM | Report abuse

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