When the New York Islanders and the Pittsburgh Penguins collectively lost their minds all over the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum ice last Friday night, they set up a media frenzy. After the announcement of suspensions and comments from Penguins owner Mario the Magnificent, the story was lead news on CBC and actually reported in Pittsburgh sports pages! Hopefully some rational discussion and decision will come of this great accumulation of nonsense.
This is a guy who’s paychecks Mario signs, so he’s not only being hypocritical, some would say that he’s the wolf in sheep’s clothes. That, however, would be both unfair and beside the point. Mario’s reaction is an institutional reaction, because hockey ‘scores’ that were not settled by the referees but were deemed sufficiently egregious — usually meaning dangerous – have always been addressed by the players according to a code. Some players may hold it dearer than others, some may even deny it, and I make no claim to know its finer points, but it is verifiably true.
So, bringing Matt Cooke back, please watch this clip of Don Cherry also reacting institutionally. This was a very popular Coaches’ Corner segment, and his finger-wagging story is the kind of thing that has beautified him in some circles, but this is also an institutional response. Nothing is gained. I believe all is explained, and the Friday night incident was as predictable as the Leafs trading for youth in February. To emphasize that point, if you follow NHL hockey closely, and you knew they were playing Friday, either you knew that was going to happen or you are a moron.
So what gives? Why? Both to Lemieux and Cherry: why? Why do you have Matt Cooke? At least Burke both gets the best fighters and acknowledges why he’s doing it. Colton Orr hasn’t ended any careers lately. One of Lemieux’ goons is the Ulf Samuelsson of his – oh! See how that works everybody!* What should happen is that both Lemieux and Cherry should team up and apply pressure on the league to give out meaningful suspensions.
The league’s response was also predictable, and the reaction from the league’s goons, and subsequent counter-reaction from their victims’ team’s fighters and goons, is equally predictable. In that sense, Mario is right. In the more meaningful sense, Mario is wrong in the sense that people trying to navigate by clouds are wrong. You may be momentarily pointed in the right direction. You cannot get where you are trying to go that way.
*for those too young to recall, Ulf Samuelsson was ostensibly a Lemieux bodyguard a la Semenko, but without fighting prowess.
The Sportsvssports suspension system:
Multi-time offender auto 1 game or 2x
Attempt to injure – 10
Head shot- 1
Leaving feet- 1
Injurious elbow, 1 with no swinging motion
kick, or high stick 3 with swinging motion
leaving bench 10
sucker punch 5
from behind 2 if questionable. 5 if clear
All penalties are cumulative, so Cooke on Tyutin carries a minimum of 30 games, as opposed to the 4 he actually got.