What a wonderful opening night of hockey on Thursday: Three games, no suspension-level events.
Well, that didn't last long: On Friday, during the New York Rangers' 3-2 OT loss to the Los Angeles Kings in Stockholm, diminutive Rangers forward Mats Zuccarello cross-checked Kyle Clifford of the Kings into the end boards, earning a 2-minute boarding penalty at 3:05 of the first period. If you think this sort of play is reckless enough to warrant a suspension, NBC's Mike Milbury has a few things he'd like to yell at you:
Clifford played 9:48 for the game and had a second-period fight, so no severe injury on the play.
As we said earlier in the week, the NHL needs curmudgeons like Milbury to keep the scales from tipping too far to the side of pacifism and timidity. It's good to have some dissent. It's also good to have dissent that has some semblance of comprehension; alas, we have no idea what the hell Mike Milbury's yelling about here.
Far as we can tell, he's advocating for the legality of cross checks to the back of players facing the end boards from 11 feet away; he believes players who hit their opponents on "dangerous plays" should be exempt from supplemental discipline because it was a "mistake"; he believes that players will adjust to new rules by allowing their opponents to skate by them untouched rather than throw a check; and he believes that boarding calls and punches to the head are both OK because "it's called hockey"; but, in fairness, he also didn't believe Matt Cooke intended to injure Marc Savard either.
So, in summary, this.
Worst of all, he stopped short of dropping that F-bomb at the end of his rant. Now that would have been an exclamation point.
I'm an advocate for keeping as much physical play and fighting in the game as possible during this "temperance movement" in the NHL, as Chris Nilan calls it. That's the side I've chosen in this philosophical debate that the entire hockey world is engaged in.
And this is my side's spokesman on American television.
Head, meet desk.
UPDATE: The NHL disagreed with Mr. Milbury. From the League:
"New York Rangers forward Mats Zuccarello has been fined $2,500, the maximum allowed under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, for boarding Los Angeles Kings forward Kyle Clifford in NHL Game #5 on Friday in Stockholm, Sweden, the National Hockey League announced today.
"The incident, which occurred 3:05 into the first period, was reviewed by the NHL's Department of Player Safety. The fine was levied for violation of Rule 41.1 — Boarding, of the National Hockey League's Official Rules. A minor penalty for boarding was assessed on the play.
"The fine money goes to the Players' Emergency Assistance Fund."
- Mike Milbury
- Los Angeles Kings