Did the punishment meet the crime? Was there a crime at all? There are are almost as many interpretations as there are people who have seen the play. It is a tough call for the OHA and a bitter pill for LaSalle Viper goaltender Paolo Battisti and the LaSalle Vipers to swallow.
I don’t know. What I do know is, if I wanted to hurt a referee by firing the puck at him, I would wind up with a slap shot and drill it at him. Battisti backhanded the puck – the weakest shot available to any hockey player. And yes, Battisti is a goaltender, and you don’t see many netminders taking a slap shot – but I have seen plenty of wicked wrist shots used to clear the puck down the ice or to advance it to a teammate for an outlet pass. I do feel that if Battisti really wanted to hurt the ref, he would have turned himself around and taken a hard, deliberate shot at the ref, instead of a blind backhand.
LaSalle Viper goaltender Paolo Battisti was slapped with a 10-game suspension for this Physical Abuse of an Official Match Penalty on a game played at the Chatham Memorial Arena on February 14, 2016 against the Chatham Maroons in Western Conference action of the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League.
The Vipers lost the game 7-1. Battisti was ejected after allowing the fourth goal of the game at 6:26 of the third period. The Vipers were two-men short at the time with a third penalty pending. There was great speculation by many fans and followers of the GOJHL on social media, fan forums, newspaper articles and blogs that Battisti was just shooting the puck towards the boards out of frustration and not directly trying to hit the referee. His head appeared to be down before he shot the puck. He appeared to not look for the official and then shoot the puck. Could he see him in his peripheral vision? Should an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty been called instead, or a misconduct?
Many felt that the recent unfortunate situation in the NHL with Dennis Wideman’s suspension over physical abuse of an official may have influenced the OHA to set a precedent with the Battisti case.
An OHA Physical Abuse of an Official Match Penalty carries a minimum of a 7-game suspension. Battisti will miss the final 6 games of the 2015-16 regular season and the Viper’s first 4 playoff games.
He certainly should have not shot the puck, and he knows that. That act of frustration is often deliberately overlooked by officials just as they turn a blind eye to a player slamming the door when entering the penalty box. When felt necessary the officials usually dole out a 10-minute misconduct. Should have that been issued instead?
Was it deliberate? Was it an accident? Was it unintentional? If the puck did hit the referee what other recourse does he have but to levy the match penalty? Lessons do need to be taught or refs could find pucks whizzing past them on a more regular basis, possibly resulting in serious injury.
Regardless, the situation is a very unfortunate one for one of the best goaltenders to ever play in this league, and one that holds a slew of franchise records. It certainly could be incentive for the talented netminder to lead his team into the Promised Land once more, and possibly, bring back to LaSalle the Golden Calf itself, the Sutherland Cup. They are going to be a very, very tough opponent for any club to handle once the post-season begins.