Like it or not, Sharks/Ducks-type brawling an increasing rarity in today’s NHL

Adam Proteau
Ducks and Sharks players brawl. (Debora Robinson/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Sharks and host Ducks engaged in a nasty little bit of NHL business late Sunday night when the two teams combined for 165 penalty minutes, nine fighting majors and eight misconducts in San Jose’s 4-1 win over Anaheim. Included in the mess were multiple ejections to players from both teams (including Ducks star Corey Perry and Sharks blueliner Justin Braun) a third period brawl and the second fight of the game between Anaheim’s Tim Jackman and San Jose’s John Scott, who left the bench in direct violation of Rule 70.2 to get into it with Jackman late in the third period.

(Some will say Scott was on a line change, but Rule 70.2 stipulates even legal line changes that lead to the instigation of a fight can be subject to supplemental discipline, and there’s no doubt that’s what Scott did.)

The win snapped both the Ducks’ seven-game win streak and the Sharks’ four-game losing skid. But the game also was significant in that it was arguably the first game of the regular season in which the NHL has sufficient evidence by which to suspend a player for his on-ice actions. Things can change in a single game, obviously, but when many teams have played ten percent of their season without some episode of superfluous chest beating occurring, there might just be evidence of an actual culture change beginning to take root among players and within league management circles.

The evidence of the different times in which the NHL now operates is all around us: over here, Sabres coach Ted Nolan, no dainty peacenik in his playing career, correctly notes the pointlessness of a staged fight; over there, former Canucks, Oilers and Rangers head coach and new Hockey Canada president Tom Renney is taking a bold stance against fighting (“(H)ockey is not the WWE. And this sport must teach many things to young people about character, integrity, teamwork, not fighting.”); Read more

The NHL should suspend convicted domestic violence abusers for life

Adam Proteau
Slava Voynov (Dave Sandford/NHL)

The NHL gets a good deal of criticism from this corner, but giving the league credit where due has never been an issue. And when it came down swiftly in regard to domestic violence charges against Slava Voynov – suspending the L.A. Kings defenseman indefinitely – the NHL did exactly what was required. Voynov will have his day in court to defend himself, but the league cannot permit anyone in its employ to remain on the job while accused of such a heinous offense. And although it’s the NHL Players’ Association’s duty to represent its members, it’s difficult to envision them not working with team owners to craft more punitive measures for those players who hurt women.

That said, this new case of domestic violence should show the NHL that, contrary to what commissioner Gary Bettman said earlier this month – “our players know what’s right and wrong” – it isn’t immune from any societal ill. There’s nothing separating NHLers from any other demographic. They are not inherently better than any other group of athletes or people walking the face of the earth. And that’s why they need to be informed, in the strongest possible terms, that under no circumstances will they be permitted to strike a woman without severe consequences befalling them.

How does the league achieve that? A lifetime ban for a first convicted offense would get players’ attention and send a message to women that they are respected as equals and are deserving of basic human dignities and protections. Read more

Bill Daly on Slava Voynov suspension: This is different from Varlamov

Ken Campbell
Slava Voynov and family celebrate after the Kings won the 2014 Stanley Cup. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly implied the league did have the National Football League incidents on its mind when it suspended Slava Voynov in light of the domestic assault arrest against the Los Angeles Kings defenseman, but said it was not the only factor involved in the decision.

In light of the fact that Colorado Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov was also arrested on domestic assault charges a year ago and was not suspended by either the league or the Avalanche, it might be natural to tie the NFL’s troubles with domestic violence to the league’s decision to suspend Voynov, who is due to appear in court Oct. 22. Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson are two high-profile NFL players, among others, who have been involved in domestic violence incidents of late and it would be naïve to think the NFL’s bungling of those situations was not a factor. But it wasn’t the only one, Daly said. Read more

Milan Lucic feeling the heat after appearing to make lewd gesture at Canadiens fans

Milan Lucic (Getty Images)

Milan Lucic is no stranger to controversy. In fact, the two are fairly familiar with one another at this point. And the Boston Bruins left winger was back in hot water Thursday after appearing to make a lewd gesture and taunt Canadiens fans with a mimed raising of the Stanley Cup.

Lucic’s frustrations boiled over late in Montreal’s 6-4 win over Boston: with 1:20 left, he took a boarding penalty – and once he was in the penalty box, the 26-year-old interacted with fans by…welll, you go ahead and see what you think it was he was doing: Read more

AHL drops 12-game suspension on Trevor Gillies; is it enough?

Trevor Gillies (Getty Images)

The American Hockey League came down hard on Adirondack Flames forward Trevor Gillies Monday, suspending him 12 games for viciously assaulting Rochester forward William Carrier Friday. But some would argue they didn’t come down hard enough, and that hockey as a whole still has a ways to go to give real teeth to their punishments and truly dissuade players from becoming repeat offenders like Gillies, who was suspended twice (for a total of 19 games) in his justifiably brief NHL career (57 games from 2009-11). But that doesn’t make it any less stomach churning to watch him snap and smash Carrier’s head into the ice. See for yourself:

Gillies apologized for his actions, but these are now three separate incidents in which he was a genuine danger to his opponents. Here are the examples of what got him suspended in the NHL: Read more

Radko Gudas on Scottie Upshall – should be suspended, but probably won’t

Ken Campbell
Radko Gudas. (Photo by Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images)

It’s interesting how the same event, particularly in a game of contact that goes a hundred miles an hour, can be perceived so differently. Take the Radek Gudas hit on Scottie Upshall Thursday night as an example.

On its website, Rogers Sportsnet described the hit this way: “Florida’s Scottie Upshall gets caught with his head down as he accelerated into the arm of Lightning defenseman Radko Gudas.” Perhaps whoever wrote that really felt that way about the hit. Or perhaps this was the first test of Rogers’ new cozy relationship with the NHL and it failed miserably. Read more

How can the NHL even think of hiring Chris Pronger?

Ken Campbell
Chris Pronger (Getty Images)

Full disclosure: I really, really like Chris Pronger. On the ice, he was, in my opinion, one of the most dominant players of his era and a lock for the Hockey Hall of Fame. Off the ice, I consider him a friend. I’m honored to have been invited by him to share in the festivities when the Peterborough Petes raise a banner in his honor Nov. 2. I have his phone number in my list of contacts and we talk regularly, mostly about hockey, but of other things as well. During his career and even in the three years since he has played, Chris Pronger has filled my notebook and tape recorder with insightful, funny and downright eye-popping quotes. I find him intelligent, irreverent and refreshing.

I also have an enormous amount of sympathy for his current situation. Because he’s still listed as an active player for salary cap purposes, he cannot get on with his life. Because he’s still employed by and being paid by the Philadelphia Flyers, he’s stuck in a no-man’s land where he can’t retire and he can’t do much of anything else. Up until last season he was at least scouting for the Flyers, but that arrangement ended when Ron Hextall took over as GM in the off-season. Read more

Niskanen’s brutal elbow on Skinner is grounds for suspension

Jeff Skinner (Gerry Thomas/NHL via Getty Images)

As if the pre-season hadn’t been horrid enough for the Carolina Hurricanes.

The Raleigh squad already lost Jordan Staal to a long-term injury when he broke his leg in an exhibition game and now there’s concern over 2011 Calder Trophy winner Jeff Skinner, who was walloped by Washington defenseman Matt Niskanen in the opening minutes of the Canes’ final tune-up. Here’s the play in question:

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