Pascal Morency is by no means an NHL-caliber hockey player. It's no secret that his fists win him tryouts in NHL training camps. He's been a regular at training camps for some time now, yet when it's all said and done, he finds himself playing at the ECHL level.
Just ask a team like the Pittsburgh Penguins. Morency skated in the big camp several years ago and found himself playing for the Wheeling Nailers of the ECHL shortly thereafter. In today's NHL, this minor league enforcer has one role and one role only, to protect his teammates on the ice and act as nightly security.
The New York Islanders invited Pascal Morency to Training Camp for the 2009-10 season. Morency reported to camp looking to make an impression and somehow fill a void on the lowly Islanders. Shortly following a devastating hit by Calgary Flames punishing defenseman Dion Phaneuf on forward and teammate Kyle Okoposo, Morency saw his chance. He left the Islanders bench immediately after the hit, chased down Phaneuf, and caused a scrum that resulted in a 5-game suspension.
Witnessing Okoposo on the stretcher, luckily alert at the time, was enough for me to believe that was the right thing to do. Someone needed to respond to Phaneuf for an unnecessary preseason collision (and possible cheap shot?). Morency leaving the bench, is certainly unacceptable, but a message needed to be sent to Dion Phaneuf and it most certainly was.
For years, there have been countless debates on the need for fighting in the NHL. Just last spring, Joe Romano and Mike Colligan took a look at the arguments on both sides of the table here on the blog. With the deep talent pool in the NHL, and the head-hunters a plenty, it’s interesting to think about what role it really serves in today's game.
Some tend to think the NHL is better off without fighting, while others believe the league simply cannot do without. There are so many different ways to interpret fighting in the NHL and the positive and negative effect it has on the game and those involved can be blurred in incident's like this. When it comes to taking care of the elite talent in the league, I feel enforcers are an absolute must. When players disobey the unwritten rules of the NHL and stars are injured without any retribution, enforcers can settle the score in a way that players in other sports cannot.
Take Red Wings forward Todd Bertuzzi for example. As most of us remember, former Canuck teammate Marcus Naslund was blind sided by Colorado Avalanche forward Steve Moore. Todd Bertuzzi took exception to the hit and sucker punched Moore to the side of his head causing him to fall to the ice unconscious. Yes, Bertuzzi was sticking up for his one time teammate. However, confronting Steve Moore face to face certainly was obviously the ideal scenario. It didn’t happen however, causing spectators to raise their eyebrows and NHL executives to rethink the enforcing in the NHL and the violence which it can sometime create in rare instances like this.
While Pascal Morency is unlikely to be employed in the National Hockey league anytime soon, his actions certainly didn’t go unnoticed. He crossed the line by leaving the bench, but by no means was he about to not do his job that night which first and foremost meant protecting his teammates...at all costs. The Islanders can go on without Morency, but they can't survive without their young stars like Okposo and #1 pick John Tavares. I have a feeling Islanders Head Coach Scott Gordon would agree with me.