ou's revenge, more news and notes (cont.)
Former Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, in an attempt to explain what is obscene, once said, "I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced...but I know it when I see it. "
Well, good for Potter, because I know what I saw New York Islanders defenseman James Wisniewski do and, perhaps, say in the general direction of New York Rangers forward Sean Avery on Monday, and it's difficult to conclude that it rose to the level of an obscenity let alone a suspendable offense.
Wisniewski, responding to some apparent trash-talking, seemed to be suggesting through word of mouth and hand-to-mouth actions that Avery could perform a certain sex act if he were so inclined. The NHL, which has taken a role akin to the Thought Police after handing Avery a six-game suspension two seasons ago for derogatory and sexually related comments about his ex-girlfriends, immediately slapped Wisniewski with a two-game suspension.
You can suggest that the league, like others in pro sports, is stepping up its handling of misguided player actions with the intent of protecting girlfriends or innocent children who might be watching a game and asking their parents exactly what Wisniewski was doing, but the reality is that they are just protecting their products.
By making an action that apparently depicts oral sex a suspendable offense, the league is rightly serving notice on the more intellectually challenged members in its employ that having this type of action going out on national television and forever immortalized on YouTube is simply bad for business.
Thus, a two-game suspension. But where the league went horribly off message was when it handed down the suspension on the same day that it gave Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson a two-game sit-down for his hit from behind on Sabres forward Jason Pominville.
Not only was it a blatant charge and hit from behind, it came not long after the league released a DVD expressly stating that it wants this kind of shot out of its game. The NHL has, in fact, new rules to make certain that happens. To their credit, the on-ice officials made the correct call in handing Hjalmarsson a 10-minute misconduct and a game misconduct. Where the league fell horribly short was in the area of supplemental discipline.
Two games, the same amount one can now reasonably expect for upsetting the Thought Police, is the newly established standard for a hit from behind where a player is cut, concussed, wheeled off the ice on a gurney, stitched up and denied the opportunity to play until he can prove beyond baseline testing that he is completely concussion symptom-free for seven days.
And how's that working out for you, Marc Savard?
This is a hopelessly indefensible call by the NHL's Hockey Operations Department, equating something that offends the league's sensibilities with a major injury to a player who was in a completely defenseless position without the puck when the hit occurred. Sure, it's on a par with the two games the league handed to Alex Ovechkin last season for one of his indefensible hits on an opponent, but is that the norm now for players not named Marty McSorley, Chris Simon, Brad May or Steve Downie, all members of the 20-plus game ban club? Two is one game more than the league gave Montreal's Mike Cammalleri for his indefensible slash to the head of Wisniewski's teammate, Nino Niederreiter, but it hardly seems as if the punishment fits the crime.
In light of the new rule and the DVD that was sent out to all officials with the demand to enforce it, the league simply stepped into another mess of its own making. If it is serious about changing the culture of the game and making a player responsible for his actions when he delivers a dangerous illegal hit, then a suspension of five to 10 games would have been more logical.
To place Hjalmarsson's actions on a par with the moron antics of Wisniewski reinforces the oft-sent message that the NHL cares more about appearances and perceptions than it does about the physical well-being of its most valuable asset, its players.
Not exactly a good way to do business.
John MacLean of the Devils was awarded the game puck for his first victory as an NHL coach, a 1-0 OT triumph at Buffalo. That was no small present, as the puck also extended Martin Brodeur's all-time shutout total to 111. Previously, Brodeur had kept every one of his shutout pucks, going so far as to saw one in two and give half to Dominik Hasek when the then-Sabres goalie matched him in a scoreless tie at the Meadowlands back in 1996.
That's a better reward than Tampa Bay Lightning GM Steve Yzerman got after his team won its first game under his tenure. Yzerman missed the 5-3 win over Atlanta in order to attend his brother's wedding in Ottawa. He said he did get "a bunch of texts" from people throughout the NHL.
The Hjalmarsson hit ended Pominville's streak of consecutive games at 336...Marty Turco is the assumed No.1 netminder in Chicago, but it's worth pointing out that the Blackhawks started backup Corey Crawford for a win in Buffalo and followed it by giving him a second start against division rival Nashville when the team returned to Chicago. Crawford lost that game, 3-2, giving up a power-play goal in the final minute, but he was otherwise stellar in victory and defeat, serving notice that Turco should not feel secure. Turco, who has yet to record a win after two starts, said he's been around the NHL long enough to know that nothing should surprise him.
"The emphasis is on winning here and that's still my most favorite thing about the Blackhawks," Turco said. "We have a ton of games coming up and (Crawford) played well and we won. That's as far as I look at it."
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