Up until Saturday night, I had the utmost respect for the Spokane Chiefs.
They always give the Americans a good battle, I have a good relationship with GM Tim Speltz and the players have always been generous with their time for interviews.
Their seven-game Western Conference championship series last year was one for the ages, and it was played in a respectful manner.
After Ryan Letts ran Chet Pickard in the third period of Saturday's game in Spokane -- and it was deliberate -- the Chiefs are no longer welcome in my circle of friends.
I did not go to the game in Spokane, but watched the action-packed third period online (with commentary from the Spokane TV announcers). Letts lowered his shoulder into Pickard after he made a routine save. The whistle had blown, which the 6-foot-2, 215-pound Letts obviously mistook for a free hit on the goalie.
As Pickard crumpled to the ice, his teammates instantly came to his defense. That's when you notice this act of violence occurred when the Americans had their kid line of rookies Brendan Shinnimin, Jordan Messier and Brooks Macek on the ice against Letts, Dustin Donaghy and Mike Reddington -- three of Spokane's biggest, nastiest players.
An act of cowardice. I'm sure the Zamboni would have been scraping Letts off the ice should he have pulled that stunt with Mitch McColm or Tyler Schmidt on the ice.
Give the rookies their due, they took more blows than they gave, but they never backed down.
During the melee, one of the Spokane announcers said "Good for Donaghy right there, he's manhandling the Tri-City American player."
After the players had been separated and Letts was heading to the penalty box, he gestured toward the Americans' bench with a 'take that' kind of a attitude. About that time, the same Spokane announcer said "The bad news ... a possible suspension for Letts."
Has that man lost all sense of right and wrong? Possible suspension? He should have been saying "With a deliberate act like that, Letts is sure to get a multi-game suspension -- it would be justified."
There were two announcers calling the game that was broadcast on television in Spokane and in the Tri-Cities. During the melee, the pair never once said Letts was in the wrong (though one said it was deliberate) and never expressed any concern for Chet. After the dust cleared, the voice came back with "Unexpected excitement, to say the least."
A line brawl is one thing, but running a goalie -- whether he be a rookie or a future NHL star -- is not 'unexpected excitement.' It's just wrong.
The WHL head honchos levied some hefty fines, suspended players and Spokane head coach Hardy Sauter, albeit for just one game, and called both GMs to Calgary on Sunday.
The punishment for Letts is still pending, but it would only be fair for him to sit the rest of the regular season (eight games). For him to play two more games against the Americans -- March 13 and 14 -- would only lead to more injuries, suspensions and fines.