The NHL Preseason was suddenly exciting on Sunday night, when the Buffalo Sabres and Toronto Maple Leafs went to battle. Literally. To summarize, tough guy John Scott needed to get back at the Maple Leafs for knocking out his teammate the shift before. He lined up with Toronto sniper Phil Kessel, and immediately sucker punched the Leaf in the face. Kessel responded Paul Bunyon style, swinging his stick multiple times. Everyone got involved, including Ryan Miller and Jonathan Bernier, the respective goalies.
You can watch the video here:
For any older hockey fans, this was a return to the ‘good-old-days’. However, the NHL certainly didn’t appreciate it, and suspended both players for the remaining of the pre-season.
Let’s face it: It’s not the 1970’s anymore, there’s no Broad Street Bullies, and Mike Milbury is definitely not going into the stands to beat up a fan with his own shoe. It is 2013, and like it or not, hockey has changed. The NHL needed to protect their image after this gongshow, and they certainly didn’t execute. The pre-season does not matter. It is three games for a team to narrow down it’s roster, and Phil and John won’t learn from the suspensions at all.
Phil has had a history of stick-swinging before, and the 25-year old has not learned from any previous events. Most expected Kessel to spend several regular-season games in the stands, but he will be eligible to return for their season opener.It is true that the mammoth Scott left Kessel defenseless, which could justify the first and second whacks. However, 2 full minutes later, Kessel picks up his gloves and stick, and spears the restrained Scott (shown above). That alone should have netted him to miss some time, as it was the reason behind his Match Penalty that kicked him out of the game.
Scott, a former Blackhawk, had no need to go after Kessel. The whole commotion could have been limited to one fight if he decided to pick a more formidable opponent on the Leafs, perhaps David Clarkson, who jumped the boards to come into the fray anyway, netting him the only major suspension in the conflict, a mandatory 10-game sit-down. Players like Scott are put on the team for a reason, and scoring goals isn’t it. However, one crosses the line when sucker-punching a defenseless, helpless skilled player right off an ensuing faceoff. This isn’t only dangerous, but provocative, as you can see here.
In closing, the NHL, and their Department of Player Safety should be ashamed of the job they did in the hours following this event. They didn’t stay true to their name, and both Kessel and Scott will get the chance to violate more ‘Player Safety’ rules on the first day of the regular season. Clarkson’s punishment is only fair because it is mandatory, but if he chose to appeal (which he did not), he could see a shorter sentence, for stepping in, in Kessel’s defense. The next time something like this happens, it could end a career, and it could be the very next time these two teams meet. A terrible job was done here.
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