September 26, 2010
During the third period of last night's loss to the New York Rangers, Ilya Kovalchuk(notes) of the New Jersey Devils made the following gesture during some between-the-benches trash talking with Sean Avery(notes):
Thanks to the NHL's reemphasized rules against certain types of taunting, this incident warrants some extra scrutiny. Nick Boynton(notes) of the Chicago Blackhawks was just suspended for one regular-season game for making a throat slash gesture to Tampa Bay's Blair Jones. It doesn't help that the televised moment was so quick that some viewers thought they saw Kovalchuk go to his neck, like Puck Buddy Chris C.:
I don't know if you have access, but my girlfriend and I both thought we saw Kovalchuk make a throat-slashing motion to Sean Avery when the two were jabbering at each other on the bench. MSG cut away just as it seemed to be happening - and of course I could be wrong, or he could have simply been gesturing to "cut it" like a movie director (since that's what Avery inspires). But wouldn't it be fun if Kovy's first (home) game as a Devil had his actions reviewed by the NHL?
So Kovalchuk and New York Rangers Coach John Tortorella were asked about it after Saturday night's exhibition game, and here's what they said, via Fire & Ice:
"I just told him to zip it," Kovalchuk said after the Devils' 5-4 overtime loss to the Rangers tonight. "I didn't tell him I will kill him, so don't suspend me."
Rangers coach John Tortorella confirmed that Kovalchuk made a "zip your lip" motion and Avery himself said Kovalchuk should not be suspended for whatever gesture he made. "Yeah, yeah, yeah. I saw the whole thing," Tortorella said. "It was just shut your mouth. There was no slash."
(Kudos to Kovalchuk for not going down some sort of "in Russia, throat slash is sign of respect" defense.) Of course, this being the NHL, sometimes it's less about intent than it is about optics; but his hand is clearly at chin level. We imagine the NHL will simply allow the incredible embarrassment of having Sean Avery get that far under one's skin in a meaningless exhibition game be punishment enough.
But Avery said referee Paul Devorksi told him that he had gotten his 10-minute misconduct for going after a superstar. "He specifically told me I got it because [Kovalchuk] is a superstar, and I can't go after a superstar," Avery said of the dialog that took place in the box with 9:07 to go in the second. "I told him I make $4 million. I'm a superstar, too."
Avery got the misconduct in the second period after an incident with Kovalchuk. Who said the NHL doesn't have Ilya's back?