I fully understand the fact that Warren Peters was frustrated towards the end of Saturday night’s Minnesota Wild/St. Louis Blues game. The Wild were getting walloped 4-0, they only managed thirteen shots on net, and they just weren’t playing very good hockey. It happens. And yes, the Blues’re a pretty hard hitting team, and sure, if you’re on the ice buzzing around, it might not look like Jared Spurgeon blew a tire; it could have looked like Backes rode him into the boards.
But regardless of what you saw as a player on the ice, there’s never any excuse for a stupid retaliatory penalty that could cost your team. There’s also never an excuse for a retaliatory penalty that could hurt another player, you know, on purpose. That’s pretty much what Peters does here by cross-checking Backes in the head. It’s next to impossible to interpret this to be an accident:
Sure, Peters probably wanted to get Backes’ attention rather than popping him so hard the captain took a bit to get up from the ice, but regardless of if there’s an intent to injure or not, there’s still an intent to hit him upside the head. Peters got a five minute major for crosschecking as well as a game misconduct, which is basically a guarantee that the hit’ll be looked at by Brendan Shanahan. Peters himself admitted that he didn’t mean to go for the head, but he needed to be in more control of the stick.
So, what does Sheriff Shanny have to say?
Wait, what? Sure, no priors makes sense, I guess (though it’s not like you can’t do something stupid on your first shot). But taking a guy’s word for the fact that it was an “accident?” Come on, Shanny. The guy admitted he needed to be in more control of his stick; you’ve penalized people for that before. Accidental plays, like Ian Cole’s hit on Justin Abdelkader that got Cole suspended for three games (a good sentence, I still think), were not accepted as an excuse for other players. Why is it one now?
Consistency in punishment is extremely important, especially when it stems from an incident that isn’t even a hockey play gone wrong — at the very least, it’s an intent to injure gone wrong, because Backes is pretty much fine afterwards. Hockey Wilderness has a pretty spot on take; it’s refreshing to see fans of a team not fall all over themselves in sticking up for an inappropriate play — of course, I’d expect no less from such a solid blog as theirs.
As they point out, the NHL always seems to punish to the injury, not the intent. Now Shanny’s taking guys’ words for it. Here’s Shanahan’s full explanation:
“While we accept Peters’ explanation that he was trying to crosscheck Backes in the shoulder, the fact remains, in doing so, his stick rides up and he recklessly crosschecks Backes in the head and needs to be responsible for his stick.”
Um, “his stick rides up?” He’s not hitting a guy during a play. He’s basically the third man into a scrum that was more or less just a shoving match. You can’t hit players in the head during a play, so why can you hit them upside the head with your stick in post-play fisticuffs?
I didn’t expect more than one game for this, and that game was Sunday’s tilt against the Bruins. Why didn’t I expect more than a game for something as outrageous as this? Because this is the NHL, and like it or not — Shanny or Campbell — we still have to deal with the Wheel of Morality.