NHL sends message: Fighting late in game is worse than swinging stick like lumberjack

Zach Laing
1 year ago
When it comes to the NHL, the messaging is crystal clear.
Getting into a fight late in a hockey game is worse than trying to break another player’s arm with a hockey stick.
That’s the message that has been sent by the league’s department of player safety, head manned by former NHL fighter George Parros, after upholding an automatic one-game suspension to Edmonton Oilers defenceman Darnell Nurse and levying an equal suspension to Vegas Golden Knights defenceman Alex Pietrangelo. For those new to this saga, things got off the rails late in game four between the two clubs on Wednesday night leading to a levy of supplemental discipline Thursday.
Pietrangelo, doing his best impersonation of lumberjack Paul Bunyan, laid a heavy-handed, over-the-head chop on the arm of Edmonton Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl with under two minutes to go in the game. The puck was on the other side of the ice, and play had already moved in that direction, too.
“This is slashing,” the league’s department of player safety said in a video explaining the suspension that will keep Pietrangelo out of game five.
But what’s worse, the NHL feels, is that Darnell Nurse instigating a fight with Golden Knights defenceman Nic Hague with 40 seconds left in the game is actually worse. According to the league’s rulebook, this was worthy of an automatic one-game suspension and a $10,000 fine for that club’s head coach, even though Nurse and Hague had jarred back and forth for multiple games and dropped their gloves at the same time.
Parros chose to uphold that suspension and fine Thursday morning in what’s a heavier punishment towards the Oilers rather than that of the Golden Knights.
“I saw the play going on, I saw Darnell wrap somebody up, two guys bear-hugging each other,” said Oilers head coach Jay Woodcroft, whose wallet is a little lighter tonight, after Wednesday’s game. “I saw their player with his gloves off first. I saw their player throw eight punches. So to me, that’s two willing combatants.
“It’s not like somebody was turtled up in a ball. I saw two willing combatants. And as I said, I believe it started with the Vegas Golden Knight player 14 had his gloves off first and he threw the first eight punches.”
You be the judge.
The matching suspensions are the latest soft move by an NHL that so very clearly doesn’t care about having any sort of standard when it comes to supplemental discipline. After all, there’s more than enough precedence for Nurse’s suspension to have been rescinded.
On April 19, 2015, the Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks played game three of their first round series in the playoffs. Calgary was up 4-2 with a minute-and-a-half left in the game when Canucks forward Alex Burrows dumped Flames forward Johnny Gaudreau hard into the boards. Flames defenceman Kris Russell came over to have a chat, and the two ended up fighting. Burrows was given five for fighting and two minutes for instigating, but in this instance, the automatic suspension was pulled back by the league. On top of that, according to Sportsnet Stats, there were two instigator penalties handed out in the final five minutes of the third period during this regular season that didn’t result in suspensions.
Don’t forget that there wasn’t a peep from the NHL after Seattle Kraken forward Jordan Eberle fractured Colorado Avalanche forward Andrew Cogliano’s neck by driving him head-first into the boards.
Anyone watching that game Wednesday night between the Oilers and Golden Knights with a decent head on their shoulders knows very well for a fact which of the two incidents was more dangerous than the other.
Somehow, the NHL didn’t see the same.

Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at zach@thenationnetwork.com.

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