Kelusky, Pym Want NLL to Curb Headhunting
by Theresa Smith | Special to Lacrosse Magazine Online
Leading National Lacrosse League goal scorer Tracey Kelusky is questionable for Friday’s game against Minnesota. The Calgary captain is being re-evaluated by doctors in the wake of a shot to the head delivered by Orlando’s Rory Smith late in the third quarter of the Roughnecks’ victory.
“I did not have the ball in my stick when I got taken out," Kelusky said.
When asked if he said anything to Smith after he was able to return to the floor, Kelusky said: “It is not my spot to tell a guy about how he plays the game. It is up to the league to reprimand guys when they make stupid plays. As I said to Coach [Dave] Pym earlier, ‘I have no problem with a guy who has his stick up unintentionally as a defensive tactic. But this was no way, no means of trying to stop me from getting my shot off. The ball had already been shot. I was looking to see where the ball was. And there were no defensive measures that were taken, other than the fact that he was trying to lay a hit on me, which shows lack of respect for myself and for the game."
On the weekly NLL conference call, Pym was agitated.
“I don’t like potentially losing my captain for the year because of a stupid head shot," he said. “That has been on my mind for a couple days. The head shots he dealt with in Orlando need to be dealt with right away. We, as an organization, are pissed off about it and I hope the league takes care of it. If we want to sell the game and keep stars in it, then something has to be done about it."
The NLL reviews penalties each week and was expected to decide on Thursday whether subsequent action will be take against Smith. At the time, the 23-year-old defenseman was penalized five minutes for cross checking.
Orlando coach Ed Comeau said: “I watched the hit live. I watched it a number of times on the Bright House broadcast and it was definitely his shoulder, whether the referees called it cross checking. I’m not sure he used his stick at all. It was all his shoulder, much like many of the hits we see in our game.
“It was unfortunate Tracey got shook up on that. He did come back and score a couple goals in that game. It definitely was a big hit. Rory hits hard; not unlike a lot of the guys in the league."
When apprised of Pym and Kelusky’s comments, Comeau said: “Much like I’m sure Coach Pym tells his players, our player was committed to the hit. He finished the hit. It is not something we’re telling guys to look to injure guys. It was a physical game. It was a hard hit and I guess we’ll let the league decide on that, but based on what I’ve seen it was no way a high stick, it was no way an elbow, it was a shoulder. That was how I saw it."
Kelusky has been sidelined before by hard hits, sustaining a head injury in 2008 and missing nine games.
Lacrosse is Kelusky’s livelihood on and off the floor. The 34-year-old is a teacher at the National Sports Academy in Calgary.
Smith was unavailable for comment, according to Titans spokesperson Dan Pearson.
Update: Smith Suspended for One Game
The NLL released the following statement late Thursday on its assessment of the incident:
"The National Lacrosse League on Thursday completed its review
of the incident involving contact made by Orlando Titans’
defenseman Rory Smith upon Calgary Roughnecks forward Tracey
Kelusky at the 5:42 mark of the third quarter in the Calgary at
Orlando game on March 20th.
Upon review of the incident, the league has determined that Smith engaged in an avoidable body check to Kelusky above the shoulders after Kelusky had already shot the ball at the net. The check is in violation of NLL Rule 70 (Illegal Bodychecking). The league also found that Smith had taken more than two steps after Kelusky shot the ball, which is in violation of Rule 70.3. The league's review of the incident included review of the game video as well as consideration of any statements submitted by the participants. As per Rule 70.8, the league has assessed Smith a game misconduct.
Smith has now accrued four game misconducts during the 2010 season and thus must be assessed an automatic one game suspension. As per Rule 40.2, a player that accrues three game misconducts in a season receives an automatic one-game suspension. For each additional game misconduct beyond three in a season, an additional one-game suspension is handed down. The suspension is subject to the player filing an appeal to a neutral arbitrator under the provisions of the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the NLL and the players association."
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