Jeremy Roenick addressed the James Neal suspension on Monday as Jeremy Roenick does: With equal parts indignation, personal confession and viewer confusion.
Here’s Roenick on NBC Sports Network, talking about the 5-game suspension Pittsburgh Penguins forward Neal was given after kneeing Brad Marchand of the Boston Bruins in the head:
“I gotta be totally honest with you: If I was playing against a guy I did not like … Marchand is a guy that’s not very liked in the National Hockey League … I probably would have done the same thing.”
“However, you CAN NOT do this kind of act in a National Hockey League game, especially with all the concussions. I’m definitely surprised he only got five games. It was a deliberate knee to the head. Everybody saw it. I’m surprised he escaped a big one here.”
So this is Roenick saying he was a dirty player that would have ignored the concussion crisis to get a measure of revenge on a player he hated? Or that Neal is that player? Or that they’re the same type of player?
We respect his honesty, as usual, but can “I would have done the same thing” and “you CAN NOT do this kind of act” coexist in the same condemnation?
Last Word on Sports doesn’t believe it can, as Maksim Vasilyev and Ben Kerr write:
I am not sure if this is okay, cool, funny, ironic, or sad. I am just puzzled by that sentence. Why would Roenick admit that he would literally try to knee another hockey player in the head for no reason? I am not even sure what would be the point of this action, but controlled emotions is something that has to be part of this game.
Yeah, hockey is a game where fighting is a mere five-minute penalty and there are some who have even encouraged the on-ice violence, but Neal’s actions were not acceptable. Kneeing someone with the hard shin pads that players have today is a serious action, and should fit under the definition of intent to injure. That is not to be promoted, glorified, or even talked about as it might of been okay. I think Roenick should think about his words, and while honesty is great, this is national broadcast and those words could have a very negative impact on hockey world.
Eh, that’s a little extreme on the sermonizing. If this is a role model thing, the NHL provides copious amounts of questionable behavior on its own (see: Neal, James).
It’s Roenick’s job to speak honestly as a former player, and face it: For every guy who thought what Neal did was sneaky and abhorrent, there was another guy happy to see The Rat take a knee to the head.
Roenick’s speaking to that mindset, even if his words might come off as hypocritical.