Earlier this week, the Coyotes confirmed that Joe Vitale was being shut down for the rest of the season. Vitale fought Boston Bruins defenseman Kevan Miller on Oct. 17th, 2015. He suffered a fractured orbital bone and a concussion in the fight. That was Vitale’s first and last game of the season.
He has been on injury reserve since early November. The original recovery time was 4-6 weeks for the fracture that did not need surgery to heal.
Reported in January by Craig Morgan, Vitale was having therapy in Atlanta.
— Craig Morgan (@craigsmorgan) January 10, 2016
And in December, the team did disclose that he was still dealing with concussion issues.
Maloney said H. Samuelsson had season-ending ankle surgery, Vitale is struggling with concussion-related issues and Szwarz has broken foot.
— Sarah McLellan (@azc_mclellan) December 6, 2015
Vitale was drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2005 195th overall in the 7th round. He signed a three year contract with the Arizona Coyotes in the summer of 2014 as a free agent. He primarily played fourth line minutes with the Coyotes and was a large part of the penalty kill. He posted nine points (3G, 6A) and a 48.38 face off percentage.
He initially was brought in as a face off specialist, as they didn’t have a solidified fourth line center.
This season, his role was taken by the re-acquisition of Boyd Gordon from the Edmonton Oilers. He sat for the first three games before coming into the Bruins game, where he was playing wing on the third line with Brad Richardson and Shane Doan.
What Happened To Vitale
The fight started after Oliver Ekman-Larsson stirred the pot with Jimmy Hayes. Anyone causing issues with Ekman-Larsson will draw a crowd. Vitale just happened to grab onto the biggest guy on the ice and took very violent, very hard shots to the face. Vitale seemed to know he was in some sort of trouble, with how he was touching his face afterwards.
Many Coyotes fans seem to have forgotten that Vitale was on the roster when it was announced he was being shut down for the year. Vitale has always been the tough, gritty, blue collar player Coyotes fans fall in love with. Scrappy, getting under guys skin, being semi productive, and getting things done on the fourth line.
But we do have to remind ourselves that Joe Vitale is a person as well. He has a wife and children, and he may be losing his career as the result of a fight to help a star player out. He will always be a fan favorite, for many reasons to many people. But right now, he needs to focus on recovery, and hopefully Coyotes fans will see him again next season.