If you are a fan of hockey, you surely have seen – or at least heard – about the incident that took place over this past weekend between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Boston Bruins (you can watch the full incident here).
It started when Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik delivered a dirty open ice hit to Bruins forward Loui Eriksson. Orpik did hit (or did not, depends who you ask) Eriksson in the head, and on top of that, Eriksson did not even have possession of the puck to that point. Bruins enforcer Shawn Thornton then challenged Orpik to a fight, because that is Thornton’s job – to protect his teammates and stand up for them when something like this happens. Orpik wanted nothing at all to do with Thornton and declined the invitation. This is a move Orpik would go on to regret, as you can see in the video.
Penguins forward (and to almost any Flyers fan, a known dirty player) James Neal later knees Bruins forward Brad Marchand in the head intentionally, although Neal denies the knee was on purpose. This leads Shawn Thornton to do his job and stick up for, and protect, his teammates and go after Orpik yet again. Thornton goes after Orpik, takes him down and punches him to the face twice, one hitting the jaw, and one hitting the visor then Orpik’s face. There has been much talk in the media as a concern to what Shawn Thornton did, however Jay Rosehill points out Thornton’s intention was not to KO Orpik.
“It’s unfortunate what happened to Orpik. I know that if Thornton figured that would be the outcome, he wouldn’t have done it. Not to take anything away from Orpik, but you see that happen a lot, you give a guy a couple of shots when he’s down, and usually the worst that happens is a sore nose.” The Flyer’s enforcer is right, we see jabs and punches to the face all the time and they never get stretchered off. This is not to say Orpik was faking it like many people are saying, but it was a freak thing – but Orpik got hurt so Shawn Thornton has to be suspended for 25 games or something ridiculous. Somehow, James Neal only gets 5 games for something that has nothing at all to do with hockey, and was one of the dirtiest things I have ever seen in a professional hockey game. I honestly do not understand what the NHL Code of Conduct is anymore, if anyone in Orange and Black knees someone in the head, I know for sure that would be more than 5 games.”
However, his view of James Neal’s knee to Marchand’s head is a bit different.
“Then you look at [Neal] who sees [Marchand] down and he goes and throws his knee into his head. That’s dirty. He’s not doing his job, he’s not doing anything. I don’t know why [Neal] would do that. I find that to be a lot more frustrating to watch than what Thornton did.” Bottom line, while people say fighting and the such has no place in the game – dirty plays like Neal’s truly have no place in this league and is deserving of a much longer suspension than Thornton. If only Marchand got knocked out, then maybe we would see a longer suspension.”
Rosehill goes on to say,
“Thornton just wanted to go in there and send him a message, that’s his job. The code [the unwritten rules of hockey] was a book written how long ago? It was a different time and a different era, guys had that to fall back on. Nowadays, there’s certain guys that play with integrity, and certain guys that don’t. Thornton is a guy that does. He was good to me when I was coming into the league, and I know if he knew that would’ve been the outcome of that situation it would have been a different story… I don’t think it was as violent of a thing to have a guy stretchered off the ice. And I think you can tell pretty sincerely that he was pretty sorry about it.”
Rosehill is right in saying that Thornton was doing his job by sending a message. Thornton was trying to send a message that dirty hits will not be tolerated. As for Thornton regretting that it happened, it was obvious in his postgame interview and the expression on his face after it happened. Thornton is not a goon who goes around head-hunting and just looking for a fight – he is a solid fourth line player. He has two Stanley Cup championships. His intention was obviously not too knock out Orpik, but he was just doing his job. So if Orpik’s job is to hit people in the head and he doesn’t get suspended, than how can you suspend Thornton for protecting his team and doing his job?
Apparently Rosehill needs to be interviewed more often, because he had a whole lot more to talk about other than just this incident. Jay Rosehill also calls out the media,
“… its like they say ‘lets roll a snowball down a hill and see how big we can make it’ and its unfortunate because it feels like those are the people that don’t enjoy our game and the fans of our game. I don’t know if maybe they feel power in maybe changing the game and they want to see how much they can write and who can write the most scathing article until [the NHL] changes their game. And [the media] feels like ‘hey we did it.'”
I agree with Rosehill. It seems like everywhere you go there is an article damning fighting in hockey and why fighting should be removed from hockey. Four GMs – including Fred Shero’s son and Penguins GM Ray Shero – said fighting should be removed from hockey. Lighting GM Steve Yzerman said the same – and he was protected his whole career by tough guys like Bob Probert and others. Everyone wants to write the next article that smears hockey for having something like fighting in it during this era of “concussion awareness.” But, like Rosehill says,
” I understand [The NHL] wants to protect the players. This game is never going to be safe. Every time theres a concussion we don’t need a rule change… Most guys get concussions from body checks, but are we going to take that out of the game? Of course not.” Concussions happen way more often from body checks than they do in fights. Just like the whole Ray Emery – Braden Holtby incident earlier this year. Emery gave a beat down to Holtby – but did he have a concussion? No.”
Rosehill then talks about how the refs are causing a problem by getting in the way.
“I find it frustrating nowadays that refs try to control the game so much. You can’t even get a scrum anymore, they’re screaming at you and the lineys are bear hugging you, and you’re just going to get in a guy’s ear and tell him to settle down or something like that… Its not in the refs hands if stuff like [Thornton and Orpik] is going to happen. If a guy wants to do that, they’re gonna do it.” Enforcers get paid to protect their team. Not only that, but they have a ton of pride in what they do. By the refs getting in the way, they (the refs) are ultimately only causing more concussions because the players know they can get away with dirty play and hits to the head and count on the refs to protect them. And if the opposing team does not have an enforcer – then there is an even better chance of these dirty plays and head hunting happening. Me being a fighter and a guy that has fought anyone in the league, if they have no one on the other side, I even feel a little bit more rambunctious out there if there’s no one to answer to. I’m not going to play a different game, but you know it’s there. For the guys that don’t fight, if they have no one to answer to and there’s no way they can get sucked into a fight, you’re going to see a lot of stuff happen that’s not happening right now.”
Basically, if a team does not have an enforcer – go get one. I saw this plenty with the players prior to getting Rosehill. People felt free to take shots at Giroux, Briere, Voracek, whomever, because they knew there was no one they had to answer to. Now with Rosehill on the team its a different story.
Lastly, Rosehill discusses how the players and fans feel about the whole situation.
“Its frustrating because if you pole 98% of the league and everyone likes [fighting] the way it is. Its not just the 2% of guys that might fight every once in awhile that want to keep it in there. Its 98% of the league. And that goes for everybody: up and down fans, people that love the game, people I know back home that love hockey are getting frustrated with the way its being played because guys hands are tied in certain situations. And it cant be played the way it was before.”
I am on board with the people from Olds, Alberta, Canada. I’m frustrated wit the way this league is headed. More concussions are happening due to dirty plays and head shots and there is less and less the enforces can do about it. If the instigator goes away then players can drop the gloves and beat someone up for hitting their teammate in the head or injuring their teammate. In this case, when Thornton initially challenged Orpik to a fight, Thornton could have just dropped the gloves and Orpik would have had to either drop the gloves or turtle. Either way chances are the end result of Orpik getting concussed is probably avoided.
But that isn’t the way it works. The NHL is catering to the media and what they want, rather than the fans – who pay to attend every game, who pay for the jerseys, who fill the stadium and put the money in Bettman and Shanahan’s pockets. The fans opinions and views are being disrespected and disregarded by the league. They only care about what the media has to say – even though some of the media doesn’t know a damn thing about hockey. They are making the game more dangerous and opening it up to more concussions by not allowing the enforcers to protect their team. Unless the NHL changes the rules, then we can expect more dirty plays and head shots, because the refs and the league are trying to “protect” the players.
For the full interview click here sporsnet.ca. For Rosehill, as well as Ottawa Senators tough guy Matt Kassian’s view on it, click here ottawasun.com. Senators other enforcer Chris Neil also commented on it at ottawacitizen.com. All of them agreed that what James Neal did was much worse than what Shawn Thornton did.