Brooks Orpik

The Bruins and Penguins weren’t 30 seconds into their game on Saturday night when the first domino fell: Brooks Orpik stepped up on Loui Eriksson who was vulnerable and sans-puck, and gave him his second concussion of the season with a thundering bodycheck. As it goes in hockey, the Bruins were displeased with this.

Whether you thought the hit was clean or not – I personally saw a player who was locked in on throwing a tone-setting hit at the start of the game, a pass that caromed at an angle neither player predicted, an unsafe snap decision to follow-through on a check to avoid getting burned (with a splash of “f*** it I’ve come this far“), and an unfortunate result – the Bruins were going to go after Orpik. A talented teammate was injured on a sorta-borderline play in Boston, and the Penguins are a team the Bruins need to give a damn about going forward. They’ll likely see each other in the post-season, so hello Punk Test, hello war zone.

The dominoes continued to fall. James Neal’s knee to Brad Marchand’s head was inexcusably dirty, so he’ll sit out the next five games (and forfeit $128,205.15) as a result. It’s pretty easy to see Neal’s thought process unfold on his “oops sorry” play – I’m guessing there’s a 10% chance he does that if it’s anyone bigger/tougher/less-ratty than Marchand on the ice. I believe hockey players of a slightly older generation would refer to Neal’s play as “chicken s**t,” and they wouldn’t be wrong.

Later came Shawn Thornton on Brooks Orpik, followed by Brooks Orpik on a stretcher. “Chicken s**t” might not work as well here given the events that led up to the bad moment (Thornton trying to square up and fight Orpik), but the word “inexcusable” does apply to both incidents. There’s obviously no justification for a mini slewfoot and two sucker-punches (sucker-forearms?) on an opponent. Thornton should and will get suspended for his garbage play, and hopefully his victim makes a quick recovery. (As for “should Orpik have fought him?” Well, that’s his call. He knows he’s gonna get chased around until he does, so maybe he was just hoping to draw some penalties in the process. Maybe he simply didn’t want to – after all, he doesn’t have to, though it certainly would’ve at least quelled the Bruins thirst for blood.) I’m guessing Thornton’s suspension is somewhere in the 8-13 game range, as a player without much of a suspension history.

And finally, Pascal Dupuis gave Chris Kelly a solid whack, for which he received one in return. The chop broke Kelly’s ankle though (I say casually, like someone breaking a bone in your leg with a stick is a shrug-off), while the one he received did nothing. Kelly’s now been placed on long-term IR, and while I don’t think Dupuis meant to do that kind of damage, it’s the risk you run when you swing your stick at people.

So…phew. That was a lot of BS for one game, and it’s been a lot of BS since, whether you’re reading about it, writing about it or watching it on TV.

The most comical part of the aftermath is the hunt for the good and bad guys, like there are black and white hats we have to get handed out, like one team is morally superior to another. Beat it with that concept. All there is to hand out is judgement; hockey doesn’t have white hats. I was never on a team that didn’t try to exact some sort of revenge when a player on our team got cheaped out, and I’ve never been on a team that was always told to turn the other cheek in the face of wrongdoing. “Two wrongs don’t make a right” is cute, but the team that gets rolled over physically gets rolled over on the scoreboard the majority of the time, so it’s easy to see why nobody wants to play the punk. The game really does require a measure of toughness to thrive, a fact that won’t be denied by anyone from within the game today, yesterday, and tomorrow.

So, my overall thoughts on the big picture here: observers of the game are best to avoid painting a player as a villain until he builds a track record, I don’t love suspensions being dictated by injuries, and the best we can do with the game of hockey is minimize the reckless actions.

One at a time, now.

A player isn’t a bad person until he builds a track record

I saw a lot of, this, particularly with the Shawn Thornton-on-Brooks Orpik incident: he may not have had a track record of hurting people, but he did on Saturday, so now he’s a bad person.

Dial it back.

Funny and all from our friend Ryan Lambert, but obviously Officer Shanahan and the NHL aren’t okay with Thornton’s actions, and he’ll be punished for them. But the direction of that tweet and the piece he wrote imply that Thornton’s now a bad guy.

Being that Thornton doesn’t have a track record, I’m okay with allowing some benefit of the doubt before you toss him on Team Kaleta.

Now, don’t read that as me excusing Thornton for his premeditated violence on Orpik just because he hasn’t been suspended before. He put someone else in danger, it went badly, and he’ll pay. But it’s impossible for me not to acknowledge that if Orpik pops up from that scrum, Thornton gets two minutes for roughing (maybe even a double minor?) and that’s the last we hear of it other than “Pens/Bruins played a spirited affair where tensions got a little high.”

Stepping away from Thornton for a sec, I mean this in the big picture: there are myriad plays in hockey where something acceptable you often do goes wrong and you’re as surprised as the guy on the wrong end of it. Specifically I’m thinking about hitting from behind. Defensemen do it constantly, and the majority of the time players are braced for it, they fend off the d-man, and they go on their way. Here’s a totally random, poorly filmed example I took from TV – Doughty smokes Stafford in the numbers a few times, and it’s no big deal. I’m not mad at Doughty at all here, he’s playing good D.

One time a guy might not be as set, and suddenly his neck is getting folded into the boards and the hitter is getting suspended. Do I think that suspended player is now a cheapshot artist? I’m less inclined to believe so when it isn’t a pattern. In the final few feet of closing a hit things can change a lot, and players can end up looking villainous when they aren’t.

The point with Thornton isn’t that he didn’t commit a crazy illegal act and put someone in danger, because he did. And again, he’ll be punished as he should for his dumb decision. But Thornton has gone after many players on many occasions in his decade-plus around the NHL, and on every other occasion it ended with a butt pat and an “attaboy” for sticking up for his teammates.

You never know when things are going to go physically wrong in hockey (because they usually don’t), so players need to minimize the intentional crap. That’s on them, as Sean Gentille of The Sporting News pointed out.

The NHL has to, and does suspend players for their actions when they put people in more danger than the game requires. Thornton is rightfully gonna miss a lot of hockey, and what he did wasn’t okay. This is a black mark for him. But I’m less willing to think he’s suddenly a terrible man just yet. Moving on.

I don’t love suspensions being dictated by injuries

I don’t love the concept of suspending for injury (as much as I feel bad for injured guys that are forced to sit out while the perpetrator continues to play), because it gives the punishment a random spin on the wheel of justice, and doesn’t focus on the act itself. Hit Henrik Sedin and you’re fine. Hit Marc Staal the same way and you might hurt the guy and be in the pressbox for a week. You should avoid trying to hit everyone in a manner that can hurt them, but the randomness doesn’t seem entirely fair.

To that effect, I’d have liked to have seen James Neal receive more games than he did, because he’s lucky as hell that Marchand didn’t leave on a stretcher. That “luck” shouldn’t benefit him when it’s the action we’re trying to cut from the game. Shawn Thornton arguably deserves more total games than Neal even if there isn’t an injury on his act because it was premeditated (versus Neal taking what was presented to him), but I have no doubt the optics of the stretcher and the injury will greatly expand his punishment. This is more eight and 12 games in my mind, than what I assume is going to end up five and 15.

I think the league would benefit from more suspensions on plays where there is no damage, in hopes of getting players to cut out the action entirely. Intent over injury, all day.

The best we can do with the game of hockey is minimize the reckless action

My No White Hats in Hockey theory partially involves the idea that players are not going to stop being violent simply because of the manner of the game of hockey itself. The fighting, the protection of teammates, and the hatred that occasionally bubbles up aren’t purely cultural, they’re byproducts of the sport. As much as I hate to use the phrase…if you’ve played the game even a bit – I don’t mean at a good level, I mean anything competitively at all – you know how easy it is for tensions to boil over. I’m just about the most passive hockey player in the history of the game and there were times I wanted to rip the ears off another man’s head, and that includes the odd rec league game.

It’s a dozen men or women in an adrenaline-packed rectangle moving faster than people can run standing on a surface as hard as cement inside walls as hard as wood chasing a piece of flubber in a game that allows contact. Hockey is never going to be perfectly safe, as even the more-safe and more-meek that play it occasionally find themselves tangled with another person with venom in their eyes. Even the less confrontational European game boils over into violence and fights at times. They do a better job than we do in North America at minimizing it, so there’s an obvious case to be made for improvement here, but those physical and occasionally negative elements exist at all levels of hockey for a reason.

All we can do is heavily punish the players who willingly, knowingly take it beyond the context of the game and into violence, ala James Neal and Shawn Thornton, and the league is going to do that. They might want to step up the punishment a bit more, but it’s not as though these guys are getting away with their actions scot-free. I’m one of the few that believes the NHL does a pretty decent job staying on top of the idiocy when it bubbles past the top of the pot.

Injuries happen, the intent is worth addressing, and we need to do our best to minimize the recklessness from players. Beyond that, hockey’s better than ever and it’s hardly in crisis. We can all exhale. The game is still allowed to be fun.

Comments (46)

  1. Justin, thank you for the fair, balanced perspective of the game events. Nice to see someone recognizing that both teams/parties shared the blame for this debacle instead of the overwhelming coverage that paints the Bruins as the bad guys even though they were on the receiving end of 3 of the 4 bad plays.

    Definitely agree with your point about not suspending to the injury but to the act. I was stunned when Neal got 5 for this kneeing since Marchand skated off seemingly A-OK. Typically that simple action downgrades the most reprehensible behavior to a 1-2 game suspension instead of the whopper that it should have been. In reality, Neal deserves more and to be closer to whatever Thornton is getting since they both displayed similar intent (“I’m going to go out of my way to hurt that guy”) but at least 5 games is a start.

  2. Really good analysis of what happened. As a Bruins fan, I wasn’t a fan of Orpik’s hit on Loui but understand that at worst it would have only been 2 minutes for interference. Boychuk plays a similar game to Orpik, and I’d like to say the he may hold up in the situation….but that may be me blinded by the laundry.

    Thought Neal’s knee was obviously dirty, but it was sneaky dirty too. I had guessed 4-5 for the play, but would have liked to see an in-person hearing even if they went with the same number of games. Had bad feeling that the eventual lack of injury might result in a token 1 game – good to see my estimate and what the league did match.

    Thornton play obviously no one should like. I just don’t like the slew foot part of it the most. I do think the injury will ratchet up the suspension length even though I think Neal’s play was dirtier. If Orpik wasn’t hurt, then I could see Thornton getting 2 for the slew, 5 for fighting, and a 10 min misconduct. Neal should have been given 5 and a game for the knee. But Orpik was hurt, and my initial thought was he’d end up in the 8-12 range as a first timer. This play definitely looks worse from a PR perspective though, and I’m sure the repeated clips will drive the number up to 15.

    Dupuis slash that broke Kelly’s leg looked more careless than anything else, and would be nothing more than an in-game penalty (5 for slashing, but no game misconduct).

    In all of the bad hits within the past week, it’s ironic that the boarding in the Habs game by Pacioretty on Boychuck was clearly the most innocent one. Just a 2 minute penalty with an awkward hit into the boards. It looked bad with the stretcher, but the intent clearly wasn’t there.

  3. The biggest thing that the whole incident highlights for me is summed up in the “Whether you thought the hit was clean or not… the Bruins were going to go after Orpik” line of thinking. I’m not a fan of either team per se, and what i saw is a hit i think was violent but clean. The only thing that makes it borderline for me is that Eriksson is looking back, rather than just simply having his head down. But weird carom or not, it’s a buddy pass, pure and simple, and that’s going to get your guy lit up sometimes. The hit Chara tries to put on Dupuis 10 seconds later is dirtier in my opinion…late, more targeted/locked in, and potentially knee on knee. But the big problem here (and with what “the code” has become) is that any big legal hit draws largely the same response as any traditionally dirty play does. If your teammate takes a hard but legal hit, suck it up and find a way to respond with a hard but legal hit, maybe on the original player, maybe on someone else, maybe the not until the next time they show up on your schedule. But hitting a guy hard and clean didn’t used to mean “ok, now i have to pay for that by fighting some knuckle-dragger playing 3 minutes a night,” or worse in this case. Yeah, Orpik can fight Thornton and it ends right there, but why should he have to? That’s where I think the whole defense of fighting has gone sideways… it’s about keeping the game clean, oh but it’s also about responding when one of my guys has his head down and gets his clock cleaned, and it’s also about momentum, and, and, and. If this were just about keeping the game clean, the guy who should have been Thornton-ed was Neal, plain and simple.

    • I think what bothered me most about the Orpik hit was his upward drive… he pushed up and in towards Eriksson, making the contact with the head all the more dangerous and pronounced.

      Had he simply skated through him I am not sure the damage would have been the same. Instead he just to elevate into the hit and in doing so made it far more dangerous.

      • I guess I need to take another look at it then. That raises an interesting question though… if it is a dirty hit by Orpik, shouldn’t he be suspended too? Did Shanahan say he looked at the Orpik hit and decided no, or did they not even look at it?

        • Bear in my mind, my recollection of it may be colored by my allegiance. For instance, I didn’t see the slewfoot from Thornton though it’s been repeated enough by legitimate sources that I accept it happened.

          As for Orpik and whether it was reviewed, I don’t think Shanahan generally makes statements one-way or the other. Either there is a hearing scheduled or there is silence, no real in between. My guess for the Orpik hit is that any possibility of a hearing went out the window once the Thornton debacle occurred since the optics of punishing the victim would be a PR nightmare. Had he skated away unscathed then they probably would have scheduled a hearing (assuming they felt the hit merited one) but no way they do so after the concussion.

  4. :::::::::::::::
    As much as I hate to use the phrase…if you’ve played the game even a bit … you know how easy it is for tensions to boil over.

    I generally like this take, but Im not as willing to be as comfortable as you seem to be that the “violence” that we see play out in fighting and the “protection of teammates” is so impossible to stamp out. Sure, we’ll always have people boiling over, and maybe hockey will be unique in that the people who boil over have a long hard stick in their hands (#hockeyporn) that players in other sports dont have.

    I don’t see hockey as so special as to require us to believe that something about it forces adult human beings to be so unable to control their actions that they must “boil over” and act violently as a result. I believe the acceptance of these reactions *is* due to the history and culture of the game, and I believe we can change attitudes and *results* over time if we start teaching kids at the youngest ages.

    • Really? Because I’ve witnessed fist fights in rec league baseball, basketball and touch football games. I’ve seen two snowboarders trying to toss them in the middle of a mountain and on TV i’ve seen cricket, lacrosse, soccer and rugby players engaged in mid game fights.
      Figure skaters have attempted to end each others careers through assault, cyclists and race car drivers have fought after crashing and water polo players bite, scratch and gouge eyes without thinking twice.
      Do you really think this about some made up hockey mindset, or do you think that it’s predetermined that humans adrenalin will cause them to act violently out of character when a surplus of it exists?

  5. Well done Justin.

    “I’m one of the few that believes the NHL does a pretty decent job staying on top of the idiocy when it bubbles past the top of the pot.”

    Right there with ya. Even though this position is undoubtedly in the minority it is still nice to hear someone speak up from this side every once in awhile.

  6. Great article Justin, one of the better things I’ve read since this incident. I think this is the most well-thought and written piece I’ve come across and also agree with your points, mostly the point of not letting “Oh, was he hurt?” determine suspension length.

  7. We see this type of hit in the NFL all the time. The team is penalized, player is fined or suspended. Never does this result in a fight. Fights are usually started on the sideline or at the pile-up due to a late hit. In baseball or basketball contact with intent to injure empties the benches, players are ejected, teams, players and coaches are fined or suspended. Which is it? Is hockey more like football or baseball and basketball?

  8. Hit it out of the park with this one Justin.

    And thanks for taking the time to think about it and craft a very reasoned response when most others (fans, players and pundits) came in more knee-jerk about it.

  9. Mostly unrelated question – how does the salary forfeited due to suspension come about?

    Neal’s contract is $5m; just shy of $61k per game over the full 82 game season.

    5 games at $61k is $305k (ish)….so where does the $128k he forfeits come from?

    • For first-time offenders (which Neal sadly qualifies as) the money is based on the number of days in the season, not the number of games. There are 195 days in the season so the 5 games accounts for 5/195 of 5M. Same goes for Phaneuf… 2/195 * 6.5M = 66.6K

      It is only repeat offenders (those who have sinned in the last 18 calendar months) that get punished on a per-game basis. So not only are their suspensions longer but they are also more costly.

  10. First off, the best article I’ve read out of many – straight forward and logical. Love the statement of, “a pass that caromed at an angle neither player predicted…” because that is spot on. Both players anticipated the puck being on Eriksson’s stick, but it took a different angle. Hockey, as we all know, is a blindingly fast sport, whereas spectating offers the ad nauseam Zapruder like replays allowing us to break things down into milliseconds and ascribe 100 logical thoughts to both players – “Eriksson should’ve turned his back because his algebra skills should’ve evaluated the bounce more quickly and Orpik should’ve avoided hitting him because of the same thought process.” Uh, no…

    I am a die hard Pens fan, and I’d argue that Neal should receive as many games as Thornton because the intent was clear as day to knee Marchand in the head (to Jason’s point about recklessness, last year in the playoffs Marchand crushed Neal from behind and got a 2 minute penalty. If the NHL were truly serious about player safety, acts like that would be addressed via suspension, yet I digress) .

    No one at the game, or watching thought the intent for Thornton was to slew foot Orpik, deliver two forearm shivers to knock Orpik out. Nevertheless, the outcome is what it is and should be dealt with harshly. I watch a lot of hockey and read a ton about the game, and have played it (by no means am I an expert), but Thornton is not a knuckle dragging goon. He can play a regular shift and has some skills. He shouldn’t be demonized like he’s a John Scott or Trevor GIllies. I wish Thornton played for the Pens.

  11. A well-reasoned essay, in my opinion, but a bit off the mark, too. I played hockey (poorly, which made me a goon because for my time I was a big fella), and I was involved in the “eye-for-an-eye” play, but we didn’t target guys for annihilation for hitting a player cleanly. When a guy gets hit cleanly but hard, it falls on him to return the favor later himself. (Of course, if it’s Crosby you send out another guy for the simple reason that you want Crosby to stay out of the box and make the other guys pay with his stick.) You use an enforcer when a play has been dirty or illegal and the officials don’t deal with it properly.

    At least that’s how we did it.

    I think all of the standard arguments for allowing fighting in the game are exactly right, and also exactly wrong. As has been noted by others, you don’t see a mandatory fist fight in football every game; fighting is frowned upon and dealt with decisively, as it should be. That’s also a fast paced game with very large men hitting each other very hard. So that argument is a non-starter.

    It comes down, for me, to enforcement of the rules. If it was fairly likely that cheap and illegal hits would be penalized regularly guys would feel less inclined to fight on the drop of a hat; a big problem for the league is that officials don’t call penalties consistently and the fact that a penalty may not be called is not a reliable indication that the hit was legal. Consistent, fair, and reliable enforcement of the actual rules of the game would go a long way to reducing this problem.

    Put simply, you can’t eliminate fighting because someone will be enforcing the rules. It’s either going to be the league enforcing the official rules, or the players enforcing unwritten ones. Hitting is a part of the game; fighting simply should not be.

  12. Orpik may not “have to” fight Thornton, but he should have. Orpik’s hit on Eriksson was nasty, and the way he drove his shoulder upward into Louie’s head was despicable, particularly given he’d had a recent concussion. The fact Orpik hasn’t fought since 2009 means nothing if he doesn’t fess up and be held accountable for plays like that. You don’t want to drop ‘em? Don’t throw hits like that. Thornton clearly came unhinged after the knee to Mar Shand (no, he’s not “The Little Ball of Hate”, getcherown nickname!) and did something completely out of character. He’s a guy who spent 9 years in the American league before he got to the Show, and he treasures every minute. Lambert’s attack on him is wildly out of proportion, but this post is judicious and fair, great job, Justin.

    • Go watch the hit a couple more times. Orpik hits Eriksson on Eriksson’s right side, not the head. The head moves back from Orpik’s contact with Eriksson’s shoulder and chest. Orpik could have easily hit him head on and crushed Eriksson’s whole head, but he moved to the side.

  13. The real question is who’s the bigger richard, Lambert or Neal?

    Seriously, well done, Justin. Thornton has been an enforcer in the NHL for years, and this is his first disciplinary hearing. Yet some people think he’s worse than Torres or Cooke, which is mind-boggling. He blew his stack and did something terrible that he regretted. The Lamberts of the world have never, ever done anything they’ve regretted, right?

    • Just watched it 5 times. Eriksson never touched the puck, and Orpik’s shoulder, to my eyes, caught him right in the mush. He has to answer for that regardless of whether or not he’s a “fighter.”

  14. I don’t expect everybody to agree, but the consensus on Boston area sports radio is that none of it is excusable but none of it happens if Orpik just takes his lumps for concussing Eriksson.
    The other meme was that the use of a stretcher for Orpik’s concussion bordered slightly on theater. Easy to say from a radio booth, maybe if you are the trainer on the ice with a guys career in your hands you err on the side of safety. But you rarely see a stretcher at a boxing KO, for example.
    Take it for what it’s worth, it’s Boston.

    • “the use of a stretcher for Orpik’s concussion bordered slightly on theater”

      Orpik was unconscious for at least 30 seconds after hitting the ice post-slew foot. He can’t remember anything that happened after the anthem. How, exactly, is the use of a stretcher theater under the circumstances? Boston media needs to get its act together.

      Now, that being said, I wish Neal had been suspended 7+ games for the knee to the head of Marchand. Team management is apparently not happy with him, both for the hit and for his public response to the hit, so perhaps organizational discipline will follow the NHL suspension. One can only hope

      • His public response was rather ridiculous. Its usually a good idea to at least pretend to be remorseful instead of admitting it was intentional (he said he chose not to avoid him… choosing to do something makes it intentional there Jimmy)

    • That was directed to bmurphy, sorry. Your point about Thorton’s rep is a good one. I’d like to print it out and make Lambert chew on it.

  15. The Dupuis slash looked like an attempt to keep the puck in the zone. It had popped up off the boards and he tried to hit it as it was coming down. He’s tracking the puck the whole time and he takes two more swings at it after he slashes Kelly. I’m not saying Dupuis is above taking swings at people, but I don’t think that’s what he was trying to do this time.

    I think the only reason anyone is reading any motive into it is that it happened in the same game as all the other stuff.

  16. Afew thoughts:
    1) Instead of Orpik on Eriksson, what if it was Boychuk on Crosby? What would Pitt’s reaction be?
    2) Orpik plays a typical US college hockey game, on the edge with little consequence. Different from typical junior game (Ok, big generalization there) He played the same at my alma matter, Boston College. I like his game, but bad things can happen on the edge. In no way did he deserve what happened, but your chances for a negative consequence increase the further boundaries are pushed, whether its driving fast or skydiving or whatever.
    3) Thornton makes over 1 million to intimidate opponentsand defend teammates. He saw a questionable hit on Eriksson at eye level in a fast game. Is it legal or not? No one can agree. Of course he was going to respond, it’s what he is paid to do (shouldn’t have been like that, though.) We have the prism of watching numerous reruns in slow mo. We need to look at his reaction from his perspective. A borderline hit on a skilled player.
    4) Just a word about Chara. After an uneven year, the B’s needed their best players to step up. He did just that. It’s leadership. Imagine the young B’s coming up this week in a locker room with Chara, Iginla, Bergy. If you can’t learn the right way from them, you won’t.
    5) Enough of the Chara and Lucic bashing. You’d want them on your team. Just like I’d want Crosby and Neal and Letanfg and Fleury on the B’s. OK, Crosby and Neal anyway.

    • I am not sure that I follow your second point. I grew up watching college hockey (WCHA), and I’ve never had the impression that college players as a whole are more likely make borderline hits or dirty plays than anyone else. Seems like an overgeneralization to me, especially with some of the nasty incidents that also come out of the Q, OHL, and WHL. Besides, there is still some fighting in the NCAA (just rarer because of suspensions), so presumably there’s still the chance for some self-policing, if you buy that argument.

      Justin doesn’t seem to want to write the fighting article, which I understand, but I would be interested to get his take on playing in the NCAA and player safety. Did he feel safer in the AHL and ECHL knowing that there was fighting in those leagues, so more chances for self-policing among players? Aside from the pro vs. “student-athlete” dimension, how different were the tenors of the leagues and how did that relate to fighting and other violence?

  17. Great article, also sick cat vids on your youtube channel bud

  18. Player gets angry at seeing a teammate take a borderline hit, tries to goad the offending player into a fight and when that doesn’t happen, jumps him to exact revenge. Sounds a lot like the events of March 8 2003 (Bertuzzi/Moore) for which we have all agreed that Todd Bertuzzi is 100% to blame.

    Unsurprisingly when a Bruins player does the same thing, the media tries to subtly imply that ‘this would have been prevented if Orpik had just fought’. Which of course is what most Canuck fans have maintained (and been widely criticized for) regarding the Bertuzzi sucker punch on Steve Moore. Naturally a Bruins player’s motives for wanting to punch Orpik’s lights out are so much more pure and rooted in the ‘code’ or something.

    Just stop making excuses for the guy. He slewfooted Orpik then punched him in the face while he was lying on his back with his arms pinned down. He should get 20 games minimum, Orpik’s health shouldn’t be a factor but of course it will. Thornton wears the Bruins sweater and shucks, he was really sorry afterwards.

    And whatever James Neal did to Marchand should in no way mitigate or lessen the blame that Thornton carries for this incident (which is 100%), but every time I read about this cowardly attack I have to read a few paragraphs that seems to infer the ‘environment’ created by James Neal’s cheapshot on Marchand is as much to blame for the Thornton sucker punches as Sean Thornton is. Just fucking stop.

    • In a 1-1 game, Neal knees a prone Marchand in the back of the head. Seconds later, Orpik was one of 3 Penguins in a scrum around Gregory Campbell. Thornton threw Orpik down from behind like a slew foot and then punched him twice.

      Let’s see. Steve Moore hit Markus Naslund in the head, giving him a concussion. Nothing further happened that game or the next one the teams played. The 3rd game, Moore dropped the gloves with Matt Cooke. The game turned into a blowout, at which point multiple Canucks players challenged Moore (all refused). While skating on a play, Bertuzzi punched an unsuspecting Moore in the head, fell on him, and drove Moore’s head into the ice. Moore fractured 3 vertebres and had his career ended.

      Other than that, the two situations are completely identical!

      Neal lit the fuse with his cowardly act, kneeing a prone opponent in the back of the head and then immediately skating off for a line change. That’s a bad teammate to do that and then run off to leave Orpik out there given the situation.

  19. I took a similar approach to an article on my website, that there were no good guys in this game but I expanded the list quite a bit in my opinion on who was at fault –

    You talk about trying to limit the reckless play but the NHL and NHLPA don’t seem to be learning from these types of incidents. Lots of media compared Thornton’s actions to those of McSorley or Bertuzzi, who were similarly frustrated in not goading their victims into a fight. If the league doesn’t figure out how to dial back the culture then they are playing Russian Roulette and it’s only a matter of time until something far more serious happens.

  20. Justin: I’m pretty much lock step with you on the events of last Saturday night. In short; two teams with loose cannons and a mutual lack of respect results in another back eye for the sport. I went back and watched the game again yesterday in an attempt to analyze it and take some of the emotion out of it.

    A domino effect is pretty much the perfect way to describe how things went down after the Orpik’s hit. What happened after that (“should Orpik have faught?” “were the Bruins/Eriksson entitled to some sort of justice?” “does the code still exist?” “is the code stupid?”) has and is continuing to be debated ad-nauseum. The questions that I came away with were: 1. “Were Orpik’s actions suspendable?” 2. “If so, should he be disciplined?” and 3. “Would this same chain of events be as contoversial if it didn’t involve these two teams?”

    • The fact that you can ask “Were Orpik’s actions suspendable?” shows a serious lack of hockey knowledge.

      • Me raising the questions has nothing to do with my hockey knowledge or lack thereof. I think the hit is absoutely suspendable and that he should be punished: Eriksson did not have the puck and was in a somewhat vulnerable position, Orpik left his feet on the hit and the head appeared to be the principle point of contact. However, that is only from where I see it; I do not work for the NHL nor have they consulted me regarding a suspension, so those questions really aren’t for me to answer. I think you’re missing the broader point: If the hit occurred in a vaccum where none of the subsequent events took place, would he be suspended/disciplined? I don’t hear that question being asked.

        • He did not leave his feet until well after contact was made. The principal point of contact was definitely the shoulder and did not hit the head. At worse it’s a 2 minute interference penalty, nothing more.

          This has nothing to do with why two idiots did what they did. Neal and Thornton are just that and if you want to let emotions get out of control like that I don’t want you playing in the NHL. To be clear, this statement is directed at BOTH players. Neal should have gotten a lot more and Thornton should get a lot as well (but I’d bet 10 max, sadly).

          Yes, I’m a Penguins fan.

        • Your hockey ‘knowledge’ thinks a 2 min interference call, at most, should be a suspendable play.

          No, nobody but you thinks Orpik should be suspended. Because you don’t have actual hockey knowledge.

      • I don’t know if the head was the principle point of contact, but there was contact to the head and the puck wasn’t there. That’s an interference penalty. That’s what was called when Chara hit Pacioretty when the puck wasn’t there, only Chara got 5 and a game.

  21. “I’m just about the most passive hockey player in the history of the game and there were times I wanted to rip the ears off another man’s head, and that includes the odd rec league game.”

    That’s a great line.
    I’ve often thought that I shouldn’t be allowed to play hockey, and this sums up why. And as I get older, its even more important that I stop getting angry at studs 40 years younger than me.

  22. Touchy subject that you have done well with. Great read.

  23. Neal should be rewarded for that hit on Marchand, maybe it’ll open Nose Face Killah’s eyes and he’ll stop being a dirty Faggotron.

    strecthers are rarely used in boxing KO’s because the fighters usually see the punch coming and are already recovering from it internally by the time they hit the mat.. orpiks internal shit was not ready to be shut down, so it couldnt start waking back up for a minute or so.. Boston sucks

  24. I think you missed the point on Lambert’s tweets. I don’t think he’s saying Thornton is a bad guy. He’s just saying there is no reason to use the ‘I have a clean slate’ as defense. It’s absurd. If you want to penalize people more because of a track record, that’s fine; but you cannot use the clean slate defense to lessen your punishment because you still did what you did.

  25. I have long felt the same about this policy of injuries determining suspensions; it’s ridiculous and absolutely rewards luck. A cheap shot is a cheap shot, whether the guy on the receiving end skates away or not, and cheap shots are what needs to be punished, not accidents or bad outcomes to otherwise legal plays. I certainly don’t want to see a league where every time a forward brings the puck down low they just wait for a defenseman to pressure them from behind before allowing themselves to fly into the boards and draw a penalty. Diving already happens more than enough. Punish dirty play, not unfortunate results

  26. Bummed I’m so late on this one – vaca at Grand Targhee was worth it though. Nice job JB.. one of your more well thought out and rational arguments. So – my take. People might take a while to come around to this, but I really think this is where the whole matter sits. The argument about whether the hit is legal or not. That’s where it sits. Ask yourselves this… Does it fucking matter if it was legal or not? The answer is no.. it doesn’t. It was a legal hit.. but by some stupid ‘code’ (sorry boys.. it’s noble and all, but…) “that guy cleaned the clock of my guy, and so he must be punched to the face” is what rules the day. WTF is that? How about the hit itself?!! NHL players need to look at each other and decide that hits that can ruin a man’s career… hits that can ruin a man’s life (Hello Savard and Pronger) are no longer cool. Fuck ESPN!! Players need to have a little more respect than OrPRICK showed on Eriksson. I absolutely believe that the ‘right’ hockey play, is to play the man in that situation. It was that close.. bang/bang. But for fuck’s sake, Orpik!! In that situation Orpik can hit Eriksson any way he likes. He’s dead to rights… and no matter how many people believe “Loui needs to keep his head up”, this is a fast game, and the opportunity to absolutely destroy an opponent happens often! Legal hits, I’m talking about. But, Orpik could have put a single stiff arm into Eriksson’s chest and sent him flying. He turns that play over with the flick of a wrist every day of the week, and he can get back in the play for the Pens that much faster. I love the fast and physical play of the NHL as much as anyone, and I expect a Bruin to hit a Penguin in that situation Every Time.. but hits like that are just flat fucking lame. Lots of guys let those opportunities pass b/c the hit would be too brutal. Those guys are cool enough to know what it would be like if the positions were switched. But, those same guys are often also the first to lay into a Suspecting opponent with all they have, but they won’t lay out a guy who can’t defend himself.. players that are flat PRONE. Once the players decide to respect each other a little more, and home crowd fans and teammates get on players who play beneath a new ‘code’… that’s when this shit will end. If Orpik hits Eriksson, but hits him in a manner that doesn’t ‘completely destroy him’, and that game is remembered for what it was.. an unbelievably exciting game that the Pens deserved to win, but was stolen from them by the Bs with two goals in the last minute and a half.

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