With Great Power...
Ice hockey reporter Neil Chiplen reacts to big-time enforcer Tom Sestito's check to the head
By Neil Chiplen
Last Updated: 24/10/12 7:53am
Tom Sestito forgot where he was... Thought he was back in Philly with a belly full of Geno's and having to throw his weight around because the opposition's goon was threatening to take Claude Giroux out for dinner.
Tom Sestito forgot where he was... Thought he was on a west-coast road trip, trying to energise his boys after coach had taken him aside before the game.
Tom Sestito forgot where he was... Thought he was live on national television, protecting his street cred and putting on a show.
In reality, he was in Sheffield, sleep-walking through a game in which he didn't belong, only there by a bizarre twist of fate inspired by the foolishness of greed.
He was in Sheffield, putting on a show for the sake of it.
He was in Sheffield, mistaking Andy Ward for Eric Karlsson.
Tom Sestito is a powerful beast. In the NHL he's just another fourth liner putting in an honest day's work, biding the time before his coach sends him down. But in this league, he's a gorilla on the ice.
And with the physical power that he's been blessed with, comes great responsibility.
It's the responsibility that's required to a lesser degree in the NHL because the playing field is level. In the EIHL, it's the kind of responsibility that needs to be taken much more seriously. The playing field is far from level. In fact, where else in the world would you find such a large discrepancy in player experience from top to bottom?
Tom Sestito, a big-time enforcer, sharing the same ice as Andy Ward, a fringe British player who was picking teams for rec hockey in his mid-twenties.
The difference in ability and physicality is staggering. Two players who should clearly never be on the same ice, but put together because on one side of the pond Gary and Donald can't play house and on the other Sylvain Cloutier had to fill his roster with two-way contracts.
Sestito, the visiting NHL players, and the other tough guys in this league, need to remember where they are. They need to exercise their responsibility. They can't just go out every night and hit everything that moves. They're too quick, too strong, quite frankly, too good. The usual plexi-shaking hits they throw in the NHL are dangerous here when the recipients are players who don't have the same awareness, the same agility and the same physiques that their opponents in the show possess.
The length of Sestito's ban is irrelevant. His ability to recognise the way he physically outmatches 90% of the players in the league is what's relevant. Ryan Finnerty's ability to act responsibly as his coach is relevant, as is that of every other coach in the league. Laying the smack down on Big Bad Benny Olson is one thing, smashing into Andy Ward - whether it's a completely legal hit or a completely illegal hit - is another.
In the NHL or the AHL, once the puck drops, Sestito is free to charge around like a starving bull and wallop who he wants. In the Elite League, he needs to be selective. There are players in the Elite League who aren't equipped to deal with him or the other NHLers. That's fine when he's beating them to the slot to lift one over the goalie, but the consequences are different when they're on the boards, unaware that Sestito is even on the ice.
Sestito and company need to be conscious of who's who and what's what. No matter how revved up they are by their home fans and their desire to protect their reputation, they need to know that they have too much power for some to handle. The Steelers should be able to beat Hull every night of the week with Sestito in street clothes, if they're on the road in Belfast and Adam Keefe needs to be kept in check, different story.
The flipside to this is that hockey players in the EIHL generally do show this responsibility. They regularly do lay-up instead of finishing checks with ferocity. If they didn't, water-bugs like Ben Davies wouldn't be able to compete.
Sestito may have been exercising this responsibility on every other shift in every game, but all it takes is one momentary lapse and somebody is being carried off the ice.