Champions do not whine. They do not complain about officials or look into conspiracy theories about their team or in their league. They go out to play. In fact, true champions actually enjoy a little extra adversity. They want the challenge to be difficult and the journey to be arduous. They never make excuses for their failures.
Tonight, we got to see how the New York Rangers dealt with a little “unfair” treatment, and we got to see exactly what they are made of.
A three game suspension for rookie forward, Carl Hagelin is fair in isolation. What I mean is, if his elbow to the head of Ottawa captain, Daniel Alfredsson was the only dangerous play in Game Two, that suspension would be fine. It was a hit to the head and that is what the NHL wants stopped. Of course, Hagelin has no history of being a dirty player and no prior record of similar offenses or suspensions. One can only speculate, but I don’t believe he had any intent to injure Alfredsson. It was a careless play and he is responsible for that.
Hagelin’s head shot was not the only dangerous play of the game, though. It wasn’t even the worst. The vicious, premeditated, and cowardly sucker punch assault on Brian Boyle by Sens defenseman Matt Carkner gets those honors. At least Hagelin’s hit was the result of finishing his check. A hockey play. Carkner had to abandon his position as the left defenseman to skate across the ice to the far boards before beginning his assault. Anyone who thinks attacking Boyle wasn’t the sole purpose of inserting Carkner and Konopka into the line-up is a fool. Konopka was fined today for chirping at Boyle during a television interview during warmups, so it’s pretty clear what his plans were, and, to be honest, I’m fine with it. Boyle took liberties with Ottawa’s young star. He should have to answer for it. Should he be sucker punched and beaten while on the ice? No way. He should have been challenged the way Neil challenged him, and he should have accepted the way Boyle accepted. That’s the code. Instead of conducting business the way hockey players have done forever, Carkner got filthy. In addition, Senator’s defenseman Chris Phillips delivered the exact same hit to the head of Ranger captain Ryan Callahan, and he wasn’t suspended at all.
Hagelin gets three games, Carkner gets one game, and Phillips gets nothing. It doesn’t add up. A guy with no history of violence and likely, no intent to injure, gets three games, while a goon called up to deliver vigilante justice with intent to inflict as much pain as possible gets one and Phillips gets none? And then there is this.
So what does it all mean? That Brendan Shanahan might just be throwing darts to determine suspension terms. There is no consistency and no way to know what will happen if a player has a hearing. Beyond that, it means nothing. If the Rangers go out and play their game, they win the series. If they let Ottawa turn it into a sideshow, the turnout will be as predictable as a Shanahan suspension ruling.