Earlier today in a large media scrum Zack Kassian discussed his two-game suspension, what led to it and what the future looks like. He was very candid and honest about the entire process. He along with his agent and Oilers general manager Ken Holland were on the call, along with some people from the NHLPA and George Parros, the director of NHL’s player safety.
Q: What are you thoughts on the process?
Kassian: You have to respect the league’s decision.
Q: Do you wish you did anything differently?
No. I would do it all over again. After speaking with Parros on the phone he explained why the hit is not dirty. That cleared up a lot and gave me some clarity on what you can and can’t do, and I put that in the memory bank. Clean or dirty, when someone takes two runs at you on your blindside, I told him since I was in minor midget I have stood up for myself and my teammates. People don’t do that to me or my teammates. To me, those are two dangerous hits.
If they are clean, they are still predatorial, which is completely fine. I am a big boy, I love big boy hockey, but if you are going to play big boy hockey you have to answer the bell sometime.
Was part of your frustration there was no penalty on the second hit?
There was no penalty called. I’m not crying about the hits. It is hockey, it is rough. I thought they were a bit on the blindside, but at the end of the day I have laid big hits like that. I have been hit like that, but two times is more than enough. You play with fire eventually you will get burned. He messed with the wrong guy and I don’t think he realizes we are in the same division. I have a great memory.
Did you have a chance to discuss what Kadri did last week, where he pounded Lindgren and wasn’t suspended. You did the same.
I’m just defending myself. If you are going to hit like that I have to protect myself. I will protect myself and my teammates. It is not my fault a lot of the league doesn’t have guys like myself anymore, but if you are going to run around like that when I’m on a team it’s not going to happen. I will take my two games. Get well rested. Get recharged. I will have some good workouts and be ready to go when I come back.
How do you feel about the support you’ve received online? Even Teemu Selanne tweeted about it.
That was the pretty cool part. I woke up the next day and I had 20 text messages from guys around the league, some I didn’t even know. There were former players, current players, people who work for different teams. It is nice to know people have my back. I think I play a pretty honest game.
Like I said those hits are legal. After speaking with George (Parros) those are legal, but a guy is taking a run at you…Where I come from you take matters into your own hands and that is what I did and that is what I will continue to do if people do that to me or my teammates.
Tkachuk said he wouldn’t change what he did either. What do you make of that?
He is going to play the way he wants to play. If he just answers the bell right there, I don’t thing anything really happens. And he actually might gain a percent of respect in the league. If you are going to run around like that, which I’m fine with. I like it. I wish we were playing in a playoff series, it would be great for us, for the fans, for fans of hockey, for hockey in general. If you run around like that, play big boy hockey, you have to answer the bell once in awhile. He clearly hasn’t done that throughout his career.
Were you concerned they might extend the suspension longer and you’d miss the game on the 29th against Calgary? Happy it was only two games and not longer.
Yes obviously, but it was money well spent. If I don’t play against them after the break…they are in our division, hopefully I am here for a long time, next year, the year after and year after that. There is no running away from it eventually he will get his.
You talk about playing how you want to play. Is there anything you learned about how you can play that way without being suspended?
At the end of the day we lost the hockey game. They talk about the two points, and they are a big two points, but they might have won the battle but there is still a war to be had. The Pacific division is a tight division. It’s not like that was the final game of the regular season and they finished first and we slipped out of the division. I believe there is two points separating five teams, so we have a lot of hockey to get that spot back. We feel if we play the way we can we will.
I have to be a bit smarter. I have to be on the ice in important games. Now that I know how the league sees hits… When you play Calgary it is a different rule book. You have to play the game within the game and sometimes you have to give them a taste of their own medicine.
All-in-all it is fun. It is creating a buzz. Look at all the people around. I’m having fun. Obviously we lost the game which is disappointing. I’m suspended. It sucks, but there is a lot of hockey left in the season. I will sit and do my time.
He is one inch shorter than you and about five to 10 pounds lighter. Are you that much tougher than him?
Yeah, I don’t know. I have about five or six pounds on him that’s it. You throw hits like that…Anyone in the league who plays the game the right way, you throw a hit like that you have to answer the bell. I have thrown clean hits before where I didn’t want to fight at all, but I respect the opponent and sometimes you have to back it up. It is what it is. I’m excited to get back. Hopefully the boys can pull out two big wins. We are still fighting for a playoff spot so there is a lot of important hockey left.
Do you think the league will be watching you closely when you play Calgary?
For sure they are going to watch the game, but I think I can do what Matthew Tkachuk did if the league is saying it is clean. I can do exactly that. I didn’t think you were allowed to, but after speaking with George apparently you are allowed. That is fine. That is great news. I’m a big guy who can skate and I can do that kind of stuff.
Is it odd that George is making these calls when he is a guy who would have likely grabbed Tkachuk in the same fashion?
The game has changed since George played. It is a tough situation for him. He has a lot of people in his ear, and a lot of people trying to persuade decisions. Out of 10 votes, five are going to be on my side, five are going to be on his side. That is the way the world works. That’s the way life works. Take my punishment, move forward and help get this team in the playoffs and we feel we can do some damage.