James Neal gets NHL phone hearing, which is a bit of a joke

“What do you want me to say? I was trying to hit him?”

Well, yeah, but that’s not something we expect to hear from you James Neal, Victim of Circumstance.

On Saturday, the Pittsburgh Penguins forward was skating out of his zone when teammate Sidney Crosby tripped Brad Marchand of the Boston Bruins. Marchand ended up on his stomach and was beginning to get up when Neal skated by and connected with Marchand’s head with his knee (or leg or shin).

Here’s the play again:

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“I haven’t seen the replay of anything. I hit him in the head with my leg or my knee or my shin. He’s already going down. I guess I need to try to avoid him,” said Neal.

Yeah, guess so.

Was it intentional?

“No, I was going by him, I don’t get out of the way, like I said,” said Neal.

No, you didn’t.

“I’m not trying to hit him in the head or injure him or anything like that,” said Neal.

Nah, of course you weren’t, Just like when you were running around like a petulant idiot against the Philadelphia Flyers in 2012 when your team was down 7-4 in a road playoff game:

When Neal hit Sean Couturier without the puck with leaping check, he explained it away as an accident, claiming he was bracing for a hit he wasn’t intending to deliver.

“Yeah, I’m flying through the neutral zone, I’m regrouping, I didn’t even mean to hit him. I don’t know if the puck was in his feet or not or where it was. I let up as much as I could and it is what it is,” he told ESPN.

The NHL accepted he was a Victim of Circumstance on that play, but combined that hit with an attempted head shot on Claude Giroux later in the same shift to suspend him for one game.

Department of Player Safety boss Brendan Shanahan explained in the video that Neal had been fined once and warned twice by the NHL about the injurious way he was playing. (The fine was for a high stick on PK Subban.) One imagines he had readymade excuses for those, too.

Despite all of this, Neal has just a phone hearing with the NHL on Monday for the Marchand incident. Perhaps because Marchand wasn’t injured. Perhaps the NHL buys what Neal’s selling, again.

Didn’t think Couturier would be there when he curled back to hit him 2012. Didn’t realize Marchand was laying on the ice when he skated by and kneed him to the head.

He’s either dangerously oblivious or completely devious. The NHL appears to believe the former.