Kyle Sheen says he's being unfairly vilified and threatened for a season-ending blindside hit on former Oilers star Ryan Smyth.
"It wasn't a flying elbow. I didn't have my elbow up. I didn't jump. For people to say that I was targeting Ryan Smyth is false and untrue," Sheen said in a Thursday morning interview with CBC Radio's Edmonton AM countering accusations from Smyth's coach.
"My intent was to finish a clean hit with a guy that was cutting across the middle, trying to score a goal."
In Game 1 of the Alberta senior provincial hockey finals on Saturday, the Lacombe Generals winger appeared to target Smyth's head.
The Stony Plain Eagles captain was coming down on the left wing when he cut across across the slot and released a backhand shot.
After the shot entered the net, Sheen blindsided Smyth, hitting him solidly in the face.
'It made me feel sick'
Smyth collapsed and laid motionless on the ice. Sheen was ejected from the game.
"To turn around and see him laying there, you could see the blood from the cut on his face on his visor. It was not a good feeling in my stomach. It made me feel sick," said Sheen, 33.
"To sit and watch it, it doesn't look good on the fact that he scores on the play. Personally, I don't like the hit. My shoulder makes contact with his head and that was not my intention at all."
Sheen said he never intended to deliver a dirty hit, but in the speed of the game, he got lost in the play. By the time he realized the puck was in the net, it was too late to pull back.
"If you look at the video, I've committed to the hit," said Sheen, who has averaged between two and four penalty minutes per game throughout his playing career.
"By the time he releases his backhand, I'm within a stick's length from him … everything happened so fast."
Smyth was taken to hospital after the game for tests and to make sure he hadn't suffered a skull fracture. He's "on the road to recovery" at home and will be assessed by doctors over the next few days, team officials said in a statement.
He's not expected to rejoin the series.
'My head on a pike'
Sheen was assessed a match penalty on the play and is unsure when the suspension will be lifted. There may be supplemental discipline from the league.
Even so, he's more concerned about the vitriol he's receiving from strangers on social media.
He's been flooded with dozens of angry messages, even death threats.
"I've got a guy telling me that if I don't formally, publicly apologize to Ryan that I'm going to get a beat down, and the conversation goes on that there are already plans to have my head on a pike," Sheen said.
"And some guy just wrote that I need to die painfully of cancer. That's a line that's been crossed."
Thank you all for the well wishes. I'm home resting with my family & hoping for a speedy recovery. The EMT's and Eagles staff were amazing.— @RealSmytty94
Sheen hasn't spoken to Smyth since Saturday's game, but said he left a voicemail, wishing him a quick recovery.
"It was a gut-wrenching feeling to seeing him laying there. I've laid out a thousand hits over the last 16 years and not once have I injured somebody like that," he said.
"I respect him as a hockey player. I think he's done wonders for the hockey community.
"I don't want to see him hurt. I want him to have a speedy recovery and join this league again."