November 01, 2010
There's a lot that separates hockey from other sports, but one undeniable difference is that our players compete with a potential weapon in their hands at all times. Those who choose to "weaponize" their sticks are usually met with emphatic justice from the NHL; such is the case for Danny Briere(notes) of the Philadelphia Flyers for this incident against Frans Nielsen(notes) of the New York Islanders on Saturday night:
Briere was assessed a major penalty for cross-checking along with a game misconduct, telling reporters after the game:
"In the faceoff before he did the same thing to me. He came over with his stick, had me in a head lock, so I didn't know what he was doing, I just wanted to keep my hands high and try to protect myself."
The Flyers announced this morning that Briere was given a 3-game suspension, and both the team and the player should be thrilled that it wasn't more.
Briere, for all his boyish charm and "good guy" rep, is a repeat offender, having earned a 2-game suspension for leaping into the neck of Scott Hannan(notes) of the Colorado Avalanche last season. The stick foul on Nielsen was done with a clear intent to injure; it was a nastier smack than the one Dan Carcillo(notes) gave Max Talbot(notes) of the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2009 playoffs to earn him a game suspension. And it was done at a time when a player's head has received endangered status in the NHL, from the head-shot rule to the concussion studies.
From Eric Duhatschek of the Globe & Mail, before the suspension:
I would say the message that Colin Campbell needs to send is that you can't wield your stick as a weapon, the way Briere did, even if he were provoked. People complain about Campbell's inconsistencies, but he usually goes four games for a stick incident; that would be my choice to, in the three-to-five game neighborhood.
Nielsen apparently wasn't injured, and the NHL opted for the low end of that scale; was it the right call?