A Different Take on Staal/Prust Incident
I find it humorous and even insulting that some have called out the New York Rangers Brandon Prust for embellishment after Pittsburgh's Jordan Staal sucker-punched him in the 2nd period of last night's tilt. Prust is one of the toughest guys in the league. He's unafraid to drop the gloves with any player in the league. He's a standup guy and I take him totally at his word.
Andrew Gross of Ranger's Rants quoted Prust as saying this,"It was kind of surprising, it happened quick, he caught me on the sweet spot, I got my bell rung," said Prust, who sat out the rest of the second period but played in the third. "It was just more the surprise. I told Rammer (trainer Jim Ramsey) I was ready to go. They checked me over. I think it was all a reaction (by Jordan Staal). I came in and hit a guy (Tyler Kennedy) and he came in and stuck up for him. He threw a punch. I agree with the call (a five-minute match penalty for intent to injure and a game misconduct). Stuff happens on the ice. I'm happy he did, we got a five-minute penalty. Thank you."
For me that's where it ends. Prust said he had his "bell rung," and that's why he hit the ice. He wasn't embellishing anything. He didn't play the rest of the period before returning for the 3rd. Prust isn't the kind of guy to miss a shift if he isn't hurt. Anyone who says different just doesn't know the guy.
As much as I appreciated the 5 minute PP and the subsequent tossing of one of the Penguins best players from the game, I legitimately thought as the incident happened live that Staal deserved the 5 minutes. After reviewing the replays I saw it differently. I could see Staal being called for a double minor and Prust getting 2 for elbowing.
Prust's hit on Tyler Kennedy was clean. Staal felt the need to come to Kennedy's defense. As he charged at Prust, the Rangers winger raised his arms and got his elbow up. That's when Staal punched Prust in the face with a gloved hand. To me, 4 minutes for Staal (charging and roughing minors) and 2 for Prust (elbowing minor) would have been fair.
Now many people have rationalized the major penalty call by referencing Rule 21.1 of the NHL rule book. The rule states simply;
"A match penalty shall be imposed on any player who deliberately attempts to injure or who deliberately injures an opponent in any manner.'
According to that definition a 5 minute major was the appropriate call. But I have a problem with that.
This league allows fighting to occur game in and game out. Yes, 5 minutes in penalties are accessed to each combatant but that's for fighting and not for attempt to deliberately injure. Shouldn't 5 additional minutes get tacked on according to the rule? I think it's pretty obvious each player is attempting to injure the other. Punching someone in the face as hard as you can will definitely result in injury at some point.
Alright, that might be stretching it a bit but how about body checks? How does the league view clean body checks? Seriously, the intent of the player throwing the check isn't to say hi or ask about the family. It's to bodily separate the player from the puck and along the way to hurt the puck carrier. There's nothing gentle in that action, is there? Does that qualify as "intent to injure?" I'm not sure about that but it isn't far from it and you've all heard of the slippery slope argument, right?
Before some of you overreact to what I am saying, I do not believe we should eliminate fighting or body checks from the game. What I am saying is the league's application of its own rules is not consistent.
Another example is the league's crackdown on head shots. I agree the league needs to do what they can to make the game safe. Some of the blind-side hits need to be punished. However, how often have we seen hits and wondered, "ooh, is that suspension worthy?" Then no penalty is called. Ok, that must not have been a penalty so it shouldn't warrant a suspension, right? Wrong.
Next we read of the player being suspended. How? It wasn't worthy of even a 2 minute minor penalty in the game so how does it merit a 2 game suspension?
Steckel's hit on Crosby was ruled incidental and yet many in the game thought Steckel purposely ran into the Penguins star. Then Tampa's Victor Hedman delivered a 2-handed shove to the middle of Crosby's back while Crosby was in a vulnerable position along the end boards and sent him head-first into the boards. Now the biggest name in the sport is sidelined with a concussion but in neither instance was a penalty accessed nor a suspension handed down.
I realize it's difficult for on-ice officials to make snap fire judgement on things like intent and I can excuse them for missing some of these calls. The league on the other hand has plenty of time to review tapes of the incidents to make an informed decision and interpretation of the offending player's intent. Yet still, we as fans have no idea when we see a controversial play unfold whether the offending player will or even should be suspended.
If the league wants to continue to attract new fans they need to do a better job of enforcing their own rules. The league needs to get their discipline practices cleaned up.