April 28, 2008
Historically, the NHL doesn't like its coaches speaking out of turn following contentious happenings on the ice. After the lockout, the League fined then-head coach of the Maple Leafs Pat Quinn and Anaheim Coach Randy Carlyle for making critical remarks about the post-work stoppage rules changes. In the 2006 Stanley Cup Finals, Oilers Coach Craig MacTavish was fined $10,000 for calling out referee Mick McGeough, even after the NHL agreed that he blew a critical call; saying that "It was a retarded call" and "He should be suspended."
The League doesn't like its decisions or decision-makers publicly questioned or ridiculed; but, more to the point, it doesn't want snarky coaches engaging in unsportsmanlike conduct through the media.
Like, for example, a playoff coach telling the media that an opposing player "deserved" a sucker punch to the face?
When faced with Philadelphia Flyers Coach John Stevens's characterization of Tom Kostopoulos's punch as cowardly, Montreal Canadiens Coach Guy Carbonneau called out Philly defenseman Kimmo Timonen for taunting: "If you score, go to your bench, be happy. Take the two points or the game. Just go home ... I think (Timonen) deserved it."
We were worried that Carbo's validation of an after-the-whistle blow to the face might rattle the NHL's thought police from their slumber. But Jason Portuondo of Sportsnet said it right: Carbonneau's comments were forged in postseason fire, and he probably had a point about Tauntin' Timonen. So while a coach validating an attack on an opponent grabbed big headlines after Game 2, there's no chatter this morning about any monetary punishment.
No extra slap on the wrist for Kostopoulos, no censoring of Carbonneau. Kudos to the NHL for understanding that the Stanley Cup Playoffs inspire some unsportsmanlike behavior, whether it's a coach saying a player deserved a left hook or a pest giving the finger to a TV camera.