I suppose we need to talk about this. I really don’t want to.
I hate the Bruins. Chuck hates the Penguins. And while there’s plenty to shout about the opposition in last night’s debacle, it left more than enough responsibility for our own teams. Two incidents, two aggressors, two outcomes. I’ll leave it to Chuck to talk about Shawn Thornton if she’d like.
On James Neal
I’ve always joked that “hockey is my boyfriend” but in a way, I’m serious – I am in a committed relationship with hockey. I spend time with it. Its moods fascinate me. When we fight, I imagine leaving it forever and starting over somewhere new, but in reality I’m always coming back. I have given my heart to the game, and in doing so have given this game the power to hurt me.
Boy, did last night hurt.
James Neal, I don’t understand you. Personally, I’d be satisfied with a rise from relative obscurity to a marquee team, the ability to bang out 40 goal seasons and a chemistry that borders on magic with one the game’s very best players. I would enjoy a run of 7 multi-point nights in 9 games, 20 points in just 16 games and the opportunity to prove I can flourish on my own, without Malkin at my side. I’d check the standings and think the top looks pretty good, let’s maybe try to stay there.
So why? What purpose beyond petulance does kneeing Marchand in the head serve? This isn’t the candy aisle at Target and so an acceptable venue for your tantrum. You don’t like the guy. Neither do I. But I do like hockey, the Penguins and winning – in that order. On those topics I feel we must surely disagree.
Roughing up Marchand is not your job. If you want to volunteer for the task, by all means fight him. You know he’ll go. But hitting a defenseless guy is shitty. Hitting him in the head is worse. Doing it intentionally is revolting and then having the gall to lie about it… you should be ashamed of yourself. I certainly am. We have TVs, remember? Those things that see the entire ice and capture moments forever? Your post-game sadface lie was about as blatant as your intent on the play.
Having your infraction accompanied, if not overshadowed, by Shawn Thornton’s does not excuse it. It does not mitigate. In fact it compounds, like two cars driven by assholes straight into each other at high speed. Twice the force of everyone’s stupidity, twice the impact on hockey. I tried to think how I would feel if an opposing player did that to one of the Penguins. A bag of animal crackers immediately lost its life and I decided no, I can still give other players the benefit of the doubt. They wouldn’t do that, right? Even if another one just did? Maybe I’m naive and the game today has become something I can no longer defend. I don’t know. The only thing certain is that I cannot defend you.
Take a break, Neal. Take your repeat offender status, your fine and/or suspension and sleep on the couch for a while before I decide if I’m taking you back. This team put its faith in you. Let’s see you put this team ahead of yourself and your ego. The saying goes ‘It’s better to be lucky than smart,’ but if your success is based on talent, skill and ability – not luck – then I do not understand why you can’t be smart.
(Playoffs 2012: The last time I was really mad at James, for a similarly moronic series of actions. My patience and forgiveness are not infinite, sir.)
I hate this about hockey. I hate the culture of violence that has gone from footnote to title. I believe the rough stuff serves a purpose in the game and understand that role is hard to police. It used to be that players did it themselves – “the code” everyone’s always tossing around. You don’t go after defenseless guys, goons don’t run superstars and so on until you realize that’s moronic, they’re “more like guidelines” and you’ve been outsmarted by the two dumbest pirates on The Black Pearl. It’s crazy to think of fighting as a privilege, so maybe it’s more like weapon, meant to be used precisely and with care, only when required. If you can’t use it wisely it will be taken away. With power comes responsibility and right now the NHL requires no consistent responsibility from players, and so fails in that responsibility as an organization.
Suspensions should happen. I believe the outcome of an incident should matter, but not more than intent. Only luck separates injury from escape – it should not be relied upon to determine punishment. It should be thanked and counted, then luck should be left for clanging goal posts and catching gloves, for seeing-eye shots and the moments with 0.3 seconds left when your team needs – no, deserves! – a goal, a tie, a win. Luck should be for the game, not used as a get out of jail free card.
This hurt as much to write as it did to watch that game last night. You guys know I love James Neal but I can’t stand behind this kind of play. Nor can I be a fan who sees no fault in her own team. No one team, even mine, is greater than the game.
Ugh. Can someone please bring me the Oilers and a litter of puppies?