With any luck Keith Ballard’s mea culpa will get swallowed up by the one from Tiger Woods on the same day and quickly forgotten as a result.
Call it the best case scenario for the Florida Panthers and their defenseman.
Problem is there’s a lot better footage of Ballard tomahawking his own goalie Tomas Vokoun in the head, and nothing about hockey gets more widespread attention than a good old stick swinging. The mainstream networks just love them, unfortunately for Ballard. He's never had discipline problems in his career, but the image of a goalie being carried off on a stretcher after being struck works perfectly for highlight reels.
“Honestly it looked worse than it was, which is a good thing,” said Vokoun, who claimed he did not sustain a concussion. “I was telling guys I could get up and I can skate off, but they didn’t want me to move. I’m pretty sure if I wasn’t drowsy they would just sew me up at the rink and it wouldn’t be such a big deal.”
Maybe, but the clip made it a big deal and it won’t be going away time soon either. For that matter, neither will the questions about the world’s most famous golfer’s incident, but unlike Woods, the Panthers and Ballard decided to face the music head on for the first time since it happened Monday.
“I think we all want to put it behind us and move on,” said Florida coach Pete DeBoer.
It helps that Vokoun suffered nothing more than a severe cut on his left ear, and that hockey teams by nature, stand behind teammates in public. Moreover Ballard is a popular player, so his state of mind seems to have drawn more concern than his victim. Kind of like when Dick Cheney shot a friend during a hunting trip and said it was the worst day of his life.
“Poor guy had some tough luck for a few games and got frustrated,” said Vokoun. “And he's apologized so many times, I had to tell him to stop. I’m sure it’s a lot easier for me to have a cut on the ear than him, he feels so bad.”
No doubt, especially since Ballard didn’t even realize what happened until he skated back to the bench and saw trainers on the ice and the replay on the scoreboard. For that matter, neither did Vokoun, who thought at first he had been hit by a knee after Atlanta’s Ilya Kovalchuk scored to give the Thrashers a 2-1 lead.
What actually happened was Ballard swinging his stick in frustration, first forward clipping Vokoun, and then backhand against the goal post.
“I think it was just built up frustration from the whole week,” he said. “We lost five games in a row, I haven’t played well and it kind of boiled over. Obviously I did not handle it a way, I just kind of snapped.
"It was stupid on my part and thankfully it was not a lot worse.”
But it may be for Ballard, who will be treated to constant reminders of the meltdown for the rest of his career.
“When you do something like this and you’re in the spotlight you have to expect it will be all over, those are the consequences,” Ballard said. “I’ve got a lot of support from guys who know me around the league in emails and texts, but for people don’t know me, that’s the impression I have to deal with.
“But I don’t need people feeling sorry for me. I brought it on myself.”