Tag Archive for Ross Brewitt

Good Penalties, Bad Penalties

1218 for publication April 21, 2017   842

Ross Brewitt

In the NHL, penalties are a fact of life. No coach will admit to a “good” penalty unless it’s to the other team, but there are the one’s a coach can live with, as long as the boys kill it off.

Still, some are better than others, as long as none are in the dumb. stupid, or selfish category. Those are the kinds that make a coach begin to tighten his tie tighter, and tighter, and… you get my drift, OK?

I once had a player tell me his coach took him aside after a game, and thanked him for taking “a great penalty.” It was a hard hit that put the opponent’s top-scoring left-winger out of a playoff game. It was also two minute penalty for “charging,” and while the injured winger got up immediately and skated on his own to the bench, they never saw him over the next two games.

In Gary Bettman’s NHL, the Department of Player Safety headed up by Stephane Quintal, takes a business-like attitude to reporting of dicey penalties, fines and suspensions. Actually their carefully worded reviews are so dry, matter-of-fact and without rancor, they usually sound like a write up on a snitty argument at a cricket match.

The one thing they are guilty of in fining or sentencing, is to fail on the side of leniency, what I refer to as the “parole first approach.”

Said approach means the penalty is subject to the time of year, as in less time off in the playoffs, the resulting severity of the offense to the offender based on if the victim can still walk onto the bus after the game without assistance. Public opinion has nothing to do with anything.

But “spearing” is an even worse offense than kicking with a skate. Mainly because “kicking,” up to now has been a very rare, whereas spearing has been gaining in acceptance and usage among NHL players. Seems the more it happens the more acceptance it appears to gain.

Well, don’t expect the League to put out the fire. Because the NHL already has taken it as pedestrian, no-big-deal, unimportant. No alarm bells have rung. So I’ve taken it on as a project, much like “diving,” that turns up in minor and youth hockey regularly. My feelings on these two fouls is clear, and final. They have no place in my version of hockey, especially in the NHL.

Let me paint a hypothetical. A two-minute tripping call is made late in the third period on a missed case of diving, during a 2-2 Stanley Cup final game. The diver’s team scores the winning goal during that penalty advantage, winning the Stanley Cup. The uproar begins, lasts for days, weeks, and continues to be a source of irritation each year thereafter.

The divers team got the penalty call, the losers team were scored upon in the ensuing man disadvantage.

How do the losers feel about being cheated out of the biggest event on the NHL calendar? What about the diver, wearing the residual reputation of a cheater for the rest of his career? No longer is putting one over on the officials a “fun” thing.

How about teammates on the winning team, how do they handle the knowledge the game was won on a dive? What about the losers, perhaps cheated out of the only time they will ever make it to the final series in their careers? What about the recurring feelings of the roped-in officials?

It’s no longer a lark.

I feel the same way about spearing. It’s a gutless, cowardly act, nothing to be proud of, with no saving grace or place in the best league in the world, considering the damage it could cause, and the lingering scent of garbage for a league supposedly well above defrauding its fanbase.

Pick up a hockey stick, much like soldier with a bayoneted rifle, then lunge forward at someone you don’t like, the blade driven with force into your opponents abdomen, or worse. Do you get a sense of satisfaction over committing an Assault With a Deadly Weapon?

Last Tuesday Leon Draisaitl of the Oilers, speared Chris Tierney of the Sharks, in the area between his legs. I’m going to assume you know what I’m talking about. He was assessed a five minute major penalty, and was quickly fined the max allowed for the AWDW. $2,500.

The fine doesn’t fit the sticking.

Strange isn’ it. If you pulled that stunt on the street you’d be arrested. And, for that reason I think the Draisaitl incident was a carry-over, having to do with the lenience for “spearing” given in one of Brad Marchand’s “gaffs” for the same offense.

How else do you explain a player like Draisaitl, with but 20 penalty minutes this past season, suddenly going over the top with the dirtiest foul in the book?

When is the NHL going to get serious about this dirty foul in their supposed squeaky clean entertainment? Nothing good can come from not wiping it off the schedule.



NHL: Another Houdini Act

1216 for publication April 7, 2017

Ross Brewitt

Well, ol’ 63 is at it again, and all I can say is, I told you so.

The Boston Bruins Brad Marchand, the Gremlin with a Cause, is known throughout the NHL as a dirty player. Actually that’s capital D as to differentiate between a run-of-the-mill miscreant, and the kind of player who is dirty to hurt, dirty to injure, dirty to gain attention. It’s his idea of how to strike fear into opponents.

I’ve been around the NHL and in the business of writing about teams and players 48 years now. I’ve seen them all from Keon, Beliveau, Orr, and Howe, up to today’s McDavid, Matthews, and Laine. Players with talents and on-ice traits that convey what they are, so you know, absolutely, where they stand.

As I’ve often written, every player who makes the NHL is tough, some simply tougher than others. But once you cross the line from tough to dirty, there is rarely a chance to rebuild your reputation.

First let me reveal the weak-kneed NHL is a league prone to erring on the side of softening the penalty phase into protecting their image, one that has failed in its purpose. Their reluctance to back up their own rulings, on-ice or in the boardrooms, never ceases to amaze. And, there’s no better example of how far back they will lean in demonstrating failure. Nothing embarrasses them.

People who follow the NHL might be amazed to discover Marchand has had seven judgments against him pronounced by the League.

Beginning in March ‘11, 2 games, for an elbow to the head; Dec. ’11 a $2,500 fine for slew-footing; Jan. ’12, 5 games for clipping; Jan. ’15, 2 games for slew-footing; Nov. ’15, fined $5,000 for roughing; Dec. 15, 3 games for clipping; Feb. ’17, a $10,000 fine for dangerous tripping.

Fines and suspensions certainly don’t deter Marchand either, not handed out the way they are. Hockey, being an eye-of-the beholder league, in this case the referees, the calls are selective and subject to situations and interpretation. But the evidence is there. In spades. A dirty player.

And, in this most recent event, the foul was vicious, regardless of apologists and nay-sayers.

Anyone who said it wasn’t vicious may have been watching it in slo-mo, but let me ask you this. What spearing hook to the genital area isn’t vicious at any speed, and dangerous to a man’s “manhood” and the ability to have a family?

On several occasions, as far back as his junior days with Team Canada, I lauded him as an upcoming big goal scorer in the pros, and over time he has proven that to be the case both internationally, and in the NHL. But it’s this erratic twitch coming up at unpredictable times, seemingly with no pattern, rhyme or reason, that’s makes this veteran observer wonder where this will lead, or end.

On Thursday the NHL showed their misunderstanding of Marchand’s brand of one-step forward, two-steps back, by handing him a laughable two game suspension, for this latest vicious stick-hook to the groin of Jake Dotchin of the Lightning. Given his previous record alone, the bare minimum should have been the final two games of the season, plus the first game of the playoffs.

No wonder no-one takes the department of Player Safety serious.

Believe me, Brad Marchand is a far better hockey player than simply a small forward looking for a bad rep. So why not step up and help himself, rather than burying his good side any further?

After all, this is his eighth time on the carpet, and it warranted more. I had him down for five games, knowing full well the NHL would err on the side of soft-soaping the deed.

But two games makes the penalty look like it was a first time black-mark. That one game in the finals would have been the balance. Now it borders on ridiculous.

Lastly, Gary Bettman is also attempting to be a bad boy yet again, by announcing he’s advised the IIHF, IOC, and NHLPA the NHL will not be participating in the Winter Olympics when they gather for the Games in South Korea come 2018.

The announcement was no sooner made than Alex Ovechkin said he was going no matter what roadblocks were thrown up. Well, the minute other “names” such as Malkin, Karlsson, Backstrom, Lunqvist, Hossa, and the Sedins, begin speaking up, it’s going to be very uncomfortable.

Good luck with that, Gary.