NHL cop Brendan Shanahan has been busy making judgement calls.
With all the talk about suspensions and headshots during this year’s playoffs, none of us can really claim to know the rhyme or reason why some repeat offenders are getting just one game and others 25. The severity of injury seems to be taken into consideration but that becomes a bit slippery, and in itself doesn’t seem consistent. And, it’s doubtful that Brendan Shanahan has some complex algorithm that a software engineer at NHL headquarters developed for the purpose.
The most confusing, and least talked about of all, is Todd Bertuzzi. Thankfully, he and the Detroit Red Wings have been eliminated from the playoffs but his headhunting of Nashville’s Shea Weber could have had disastrous results. Clearly, Bertuzzi was trying to avenge his hit on Henrik Zetterberg — something that was clearly premeditated. Nor was that a first time offense. For those with a hazy memory, in 2004, Bertuzzi (then of the Vancouver Canucks) stalked and viciously attacked Steve Moore in a game against the Colorado Avalanche. The attack ended Moore’s career and any chance he had to lead a normal life.
It is true Bertuzzi was suspended indefinitely by the league and did not play again that season, missing the team’s final 20 games. Then came the lockout. The IIHF, the worldwide governing body for ice hockey, honored the NHL’s suspension and Bertuzzi was ineligible for international competition or play in other leagues. He was reinstated by the NHL at the end of the work stoppage and continues to enjoy an NHL career.
This is an injustice of great proportions. Saying Bertuzzi served his time because he would have been playing had there not been a lockout is irresponsible. Many of his contemporaries didn’t play at all during the lockout — and one imagines this might have been the case for Bertuzzi. He should have served his time by sitting out real NHL games.
So, as I watched Bertuzzi go after Shea Webber without so much as a mention of his chronic, malicious behavior, I lost just a little bit more faith in the NHL’s ability to be objective in its punitive measures.
Statement from Pittsburgh Penguins owner Mario Lemieux, in the wake of a game Feb. 12 in which his team and the New York Islanders combined for 346 penalty minutes, 10 ejections, 15 fighting majors and 20 misconducts, leading to suspensions for three players (two from NYI, one from Pittsburgh), and a $100,000 fine for the Islanders:
“The NHL had a chance to send a clear and strong message that those kinds of actions are unacceptable and embarrassing to the sport. It failed.
“Hockey is a tough, physical game, and it always should be. But what happened Friday night on Long Island wasn’t hockey. It was a travesty. It was painful to watch the game I love turn into a sideshow like that.
“We, as a league, must do a better job of protecting the integrity of the game and the safety of our players. We must make it clear that those kinds of actions will not be tolerated and will be met with meaningful disciplinary action.
“If the events relating to Friday night reflect the state of the league, I need to re-think whether I want to be a part of it.”
Hypocrisy is such an ugly thing. Especially from someone who we’re supposed to admire. But it just goes to reinforce the lesson that greatness on the playing field or on the ice often does not translate to the real world.
Mario Lemieux dares to speak of “protecting the intregrity of the game” when the team he owns leads the NHL in penalty minutes (1,113), majors (63) and penalty minutes per game (19.2),
He has the unmitigated gall to speak of the safety of the players when he employs the biggest cheap shot artist in the game, Matt Cooke.
Mario Lemieux weeps his crocodile tears about “travesty” and a “sideshow” while Marc Savard sits at home in a darkened room and wonders if he’ll ever live a normal life again, let alone play the game he loves.
I don’t for a moment condone what the Islanders did. But I can understand it. You get abused often enough, eventually you’re going to fight back. Unfortunately the Islanders brought a gun to a knife fight, but the brawl(s) never would have happened at all if the Penguins hadn’t laid the groundwork, not only with the Islanders, but with the entire league. Mario Lemieux can point a finger at the Islanders and the NHL all he wants, but the person he really needs to be pointing at resides in his mirror. And if he really wants to take his stick and his puck and go home, there’s just one thing to say: Don’t let the door hit your ass on the way out, Mario.
“For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind.” – Hosea 8:7.
Imagine an NFL quarterback dropping back for a pass. He scans the field, looking for an open receiver, as defensive linemen and linebackers struggle mightily to flush him out of the pocket. Finally one breaks through and slams the quarterback to the ground for the sack.
And then an offensive lineman punches the linebacker in the face.
Ridiculous, you say? Well, something akin to that has been going on with increasing regularity in the NHL in the past few years, as it seems more and more often players are responding to a solid check on a teammate by dropping the gloves and pummeling (or being pummeled by) the “offending” player.
This has got to stop. Since when did a clean check become a fighting offense? Why does Mark Stuart have to protect himself when Anze Kopitar gets caught with his head down? Watch…
The worst part of this whole episode is that Stuart broke his finger in that unecessary fight, had to have surgery, developed an infection and missed months of action. He returned for the playoffs but obviously wasn’t himself. All because of some stupid, misguided “code of honor” or some damned thing.
It’s one thing if it’s a dirty hit. If a stick goes high, or it’s knee-to-knee, or a head shot. And I realize that to players on the ice, the action is lightning-fast and at times a clean hit can appear dirty. But the majority of these “sticking up for my teammate” retaliatory attacks are unwarranted. Players don’t need their teammates running around like assassins trying to “protect” them from one of the basic parts of the game – rough, physical play. If a guy’s that delicate, he shouldn’t be playing professional sports in the first place.
Fans need to realize this too. It’s amazing the amount of comments you see on Internet chat sites about this. Oddly enough, it’s most often the posters who advocate for “old-time hockey” who insist that guys should throw down if an opposing player so much as breathes hard on one of theirs.
Just as an example, there were Bruins fans howling for T.J. Oshie’s head when he hit David Krejci a few weeks ago along the boards. Let’s take a look…
I love Krejci, but I saw nothing wrong with that hit. Krejci suffered his concussion because he banged his head on the dasher, not because of the hit itself. Oshie did nothing wrong.
I have nothing against fighting in hockey. There’s a time and a place for it, and sticking up for a teammate is certainly one of those times. But picking a fight because someone gets hurt playing a dangerous game is ridiculous. And fans have to stop insisting on that response, or else start following gentler sports, like tennis.
The Atlanta Thrashers mascot heckles Alex Ovechkin.
After a lengthy summer of twiddling our thumbs, Washington Capitals fans finally got to see their boys back in action Friday evening. There was much anticipation surrounding the regular season opener in Atlanta against the Thrashers and their new head coach Craig Ramsey. Most fans expected a blowout win to start the season. The excitement and anticipation was met with a sub-par performance by the Capitals and a disheartening 2-4 loss in Blueland and the news that the Capitals No. 1 goalie, Semyon Varlamov, had been placed on injured reserve.
Caps fans never fear! This team has a knack for winning at home and for putting on shows that won’t soon be forgotten. That was certainly the case the next day back home in D.C. where the Caps pummeled the New Jersey Devils 7-2, with Michal Neuvirth in net. The last give minutes of the game were perhaps the most exciting, as the Capitals took the pummeling from the scoreboard to the faces and bodies of the Devils players. Not often in the “new NHL” do you see five fights in one game — with four of them being within 10 seconds of playing time.
Out of all the frays, New Jersey Devil Pierre-Luc Leblond got himself a one game suspension for instigating a fight with the Caps’ Swedish Rookie, Marcus Johansson, in the final five minutes of the 3rd period. This sparked quite a bit of outrage on the Caps bench as the young Swede refused to drop the gloves with Leblond seconds earlier before being chased across the ice and lassoed to the ground by the collar of his jersey by the Devils Forward. Capitals Rookie Defensemen, John Carlson, willingly stepped in for his teammate and found himself hitting the showers early because of it. Caps Head Coach Bruce Boudreau tried his best to keep the rest of his players from hopping over the boards before it turned into an all out bench clearing brawl.
Mike Green taking a swing at Devil's Captain Ilya Kovalchuk. Photo Courtesy of Getty Images.
Not only did the evening nearly end in an all out brawl, but most surprisingly — and perhaps the most bizzare fight yet of the young season followed by Pavel Datsyuk and Corey Perry’s spat on October 8th — 2010 Norris Trophy candidate Mike Green and Devil’s Captain Ilya Kovalchuk squared off with 4:17 left to go in the 3rd period. For the sake of both their manhoods, I will refrain from commenting on either of their interesting fighting styles. Although I’m sure Caps forward Alexander Semin will still take more heat in the dressing room for his innovative fighting style at the expense of Rangers Defenseman, Marc Staal two seasons ago.
In the 2009-2010 season alone the Caps only amounted 20 regular season fighting majors over a span of 82 games. So far for the 2010-2011 campaign, the Caps managed to knock out 1/4 of last years total in a single outing. For a game with so much knuckle-to-knuckle action, perhaps this is an early indicator this team is not just about lighting the lamp anymore. With the off-season addition of DJ King — who was ironically a healthy scratch for the fighting bonanza against the Devils — it is easy to assume Caps General Manager George McPhee had the idea of adding more grit to his line-up. Perhaps this is his way of saying the Caps won’t only beat you on the scoreboard, but in hand-to-hand combat as well now? Can’t say I can complain about that, the team needs to evolve its’ overall playing style *Cough*PowerPlay*Cough* and learn to be more dynamic. Be careful NHL, this isn’t the same Washington Capitals team who will shy away from the rough stuff.
One thing’s for sure, I’m 99.99 percent positive Mr. King will be given a sweater the next time the Caps face the Devils on November 22.
Oh and Neuvirth, I think you are already starting to prove me correct, even if Varlamov has succumbed already to his wonky groin. I still say out of our two young talented goalies, Neuvirth will be the better of the two at the end of the day.
"Look into my face and know, to look into my face is to look into the face ... of EVIL!" so said comic Kevin McDonald of The Kids in the Hall as Sir Simon Milligan. Does the same go for Chris Pronger?
Oh Chris! Yes, I mean the Chris of the Philadelphia Flyers: Pronger. I have to hand it to him for bringing the controversy to the Stanley Cup Finals. I love that in losing efforts he raced over to snap up the “winning” (er, losing?) puck after both games in Chicago, then claimed he threw them in the trash can “where they belong.” Total asshole thing to do? Maybe. But it’s also a dash of genius in a weird, twisted Dr. Evil kind of way.
Pronger has always known how to poke and prod and push his way onto the “hate” lists of opposing players on the ice. Now, here he goes doing the same thing skating off the ice — and I love it.
I am a firm believer that pretty much any press is good press. If this gets people talking about the NHL — great! If it fired up the Flyers for Game 3 (which they did win in overtime) — also great! If it got under the skin of the Blackhawks and caused them to lose focus — way to go Chris. The mind of an NHL agitator works in mysterious ways.
NHL players say Pronger is one of those guys you loathe — unless he’s on your team. Now he’s making off with pucks and infuriating certain members of the Blackhawks (hello Ben Eager!), going so far as to remark to the media (in regard to Eager’s eager interest in his puck-snatching ways) that “apparently, it got him upset. So I guess it worked, didn’t it? It’s too bad. I guess little things amuse little minds.”
Oh Chris! You are truly evil! With such a remark, you zing not just Eager, but all of us who find your unique brand of gamesmanship so amusing.
(No word yet on who grabbed the Game 3 puck.)
So gamesmanship or disgrace? We want to know what YOU think!
I can’t help but wonder if the Atlanta Thrashers could use some teammate-on-teammate butt kickings after the way they’ve been playing lately. They’ve shown little heart and determination (Kari Lehtonen’s outstanding play in Dallas being pretty much the one exception).
Speaking of the Atlanta-Dallas game, I was at the game and witnessed the bad and bobbled passes, lackadaisical play and general boredom of the Thrashers firsthand. Kari showed exactly what kind of goalie he can be when he is on — and when he is on, he is a wow-the-crowd, “who is this guy?!” kind of player. Unfortunately, you can’t win a game as a goalie unless the team in front of you scores.
Finally, there’s a “Top 10 Teammates Fighting Each Other” video that features three different sets of Canadiens players squaring off in practice (including one of my favorites, Richard Zednik). Take a look.
Could fighting help the Thrashers? Hmmm … I don’t know, but maybe it’s worth a shot. I kid … sort of.