The Game Deserves Better; A Brief Look at the Actions Taken in Boston.
A calculated act of revenge meant to harm a player is something too often seen today in the NHL. Unfortunately for those watching the Penguins v Bruins game on Saturday, we witnessed such an event.
Bruins notable tough guy Shawn Thornton skated halfway across the ice to address Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik. In doing so, Thornton threw Orpik to the ice via a slew foot and then threw two punches to his face.
It appeared from the second shot that Orpik’s head hit the ice, most likely the cause of unconsciousness that occurred. In this instance, the ugly side of the NHL reared its head. These acts are unacceptable, despite whatever justification has been conjured up.
Many claim that the instance could have been avoided if Orpik were to answer the proverbial bell for his hit on Bruin forward Loui Eriksson. Those who say so are wrong. Orpik delivered a clean body check to Eriksson, which resulted in a concussion. The act itself might have warranted a two minute interference call at most, but the on ice officials deemed the puck took an unexpected bounce and that Orpik was not in the wrong.
With that said, Orpik had no reason to “man up” or follow the “code” to fight Thornton. Thornton’s actions are worthy of a six game plus suspension as determined by an in-person hearing with league disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan.
The other calculated act in this game that was meant to harm was carried out by James Neal. The prolific goal scorer of the Penguins delivered a skate by knee to the head of Bruins forward Brad Marchand. His actions were deemed to be worthy of a five game suspension, but the Penguins might have other punishment in mind.
Despite the NHL’s decision to suspend Neal for five games, the Penguins brass has been noticeably upset with Neal’s lack of acknowledgment. In the postgame interview, James Neal revealed that he saw Marchand at the last second and did not move out of the way to avoid the hit. Dan Bylsma was noticeably upset with Neal’s actions after the game and rumors are now swirling that the Penguins intend to punish Neal after his suspension is up.
The organization has taken a stand against hits like this. After their own injuries and injuries caused by their own, the Penguins decided it was part of their obligation to become a voice in the discussion. Despite the tremendous amount of criticism for their efforts, the Penguins were able to work with Matt Cooke and help him transform his game. He has yet to receive a disciplinary call since his last suspension.
Now the Penguins say they have to work with James Neal, who has continuously beat around the bush about owning up for his pathetic knee on Marchand. Neal has had a suspension as a Penguin before for his childish actions against Philadelphia in the 2012 playoff series.
Neal skated with reckless abandon, while throwing elbows at Philadelphia’s forwards. Under the CBA he is not a repeat offender, but his history can be taken into consideration. If Neal is to work with the Penguins on these actions he can become a much more respected player all around and not just for his tremendous goal scoring abilities.
Rumors are circling in Pittsburgh that further disciplinary actions will be levied on Neal by the organization and this is one fan who hopes for this to come to fruition. This league deserves a better class of player, not just a more talented one.