Last week the league announced the penalty for the vicious cross-check that Detroit Red Wing center Sergei Fedorov applied to the head of San Jose Shark defenseman Jayson More in Game 7 of their teams' first-round Western Conference playoff series on April 30: Fedorov was fined $500—the maximum allowed—and will miss the first four games of the 1994-95 season.
On May 7 the NHL doled out its punishment to Vancouver Canuck right wing Pavel Bure for the blind-side elbow he threw at Shane Churla of the Dallas Stars during Game 2 of the second round of the West playoffs three days earlier: Bure was fined $500.
Both of those incidents conjure up the memory of Pittsburgh Penguin superstar Mario Lemieux leaping out of the penalty box and throwing a full-fledged tantrum on the ice to complain about bad refereeing on April 5. Lemieux was fined the $500 max.
What's the connection? In all three incidents, NHL vice president Brian Burke, who metes out fines and suspensions, paid more attention to the actors than to their actions.
Without question, a lesser player than Fedorov, who was second in the league in scoring this season and is in contention for MVP honors, would have received a much tougher suspension than four games. The hit was vicious enough, but Fedorov compounded it by punching More in the face as he lay on the ice. Ten games would have been a more fitting penalty.
Had the roles been reversed in the Bure incident, Churla, a notorious goon, would certainly have been suspended for at least two games. But on this occasion Bure, who was the NHL leader in goals scored this season, was the aggressor and should have paid much more dearly for it.
Burke says that a player's history does figure in his punishment scale. According to Burke's Law, then, the first assault or two warrant only a slap on the wrist; after that, it's time to get tough.
Of course, the double standard was already clearly in place when Lemieux's inexcusable display of petulance went virtually unpunished. Anyone else would have been suspended. Anyone else who wasn't a top player, that is.
Nice Start, But...
Last Thursday, Los Angeles Dodger reserve infielder Garey Ingram, freshly called up from Double A San Antonio, hit a home run in his first major league at bat, against Colorado, thus becoming the 67th player in baseball history to go deep in his debut at the plate. But before anyone signs Ingram to a multiyear, multimillion-dollar deal, it should be noted that the roster of those who accomplished the same feat includes such immortals as (Frosty) Bill Duggleby, Ernest (Chief) Koy, Eddie (Pepper) Morgan, Emmett (Heinie) Mueller and George (White Wings) Tebeau, a crew whose career stats combined wouldn't raise an eyebrow in Cooperstown. The 55 players with a first-at-bat dinger who are now retired, in fact, averaged a mere 30 career homers and a ratio of one for every 50 at bats. Eleven of those 55 never hit another tater, including Detroit's mislabeled James (Hack) Miller. Clarence (Ace) Parker hit only a pair in 207 tries. And then there's John E. Kennedy, who fittingly launched one in his opening at bat, for Washington in 1962, then endured his own missile crisis, hitting just 31 more in 2,109 at bats. Eight of the leadoff sluggers were pitchers, including Hoyt Wilhelm, who did make the Hall of Fame but most assuredly not for carrying a big stick, given that he hit just that lone homer in his 1,070 games. Indeed, the fraternity's only other Hall of Famer is Cleveland's Earl Averill, who is also the group's career homer leader, with 238.