The National Hockey League on Tuesday endorsed the use of a swinging stick for self-defense, and then for further retribution against an assailant.
That’s really the only way to read the League’s decision to suspend Phil Kessel of the Toronto Maple Leafs for three preseason games and zero regular-season games for slashing the hell out of John Scott of the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday, after his coach offered him up as a sacrifice to the Sabres goon.
Here’s the Brendan Shanahan video explaining the 3-fake-game suspension for Kessel, who earned a match penalty for intent to injure in the melee:
If you want to argue self-defense, that’s fine. Mike Richards wasn’t suspended for this elbow on Pat Kaleta in 2011. He was given a major penalty because, well, it’s a major penalty to elbow someone like that. But like Kessel, the infraction was seen as something that was necessitated by the actions of others, and wasn't suspended.
However … it’s when Kessel went back at Scott, who was being restrained by two other Leafs players, that should have earned him something in the regular season for his actions. It’s intent to injure to the letter of the law, as vicious and calculated a play as we’ve seen in the preseason. Zack Kassian whipped his stick around recklessly and connected with Sam Gagner to earn a 5-game suspension. Kessel intentionally whacked at a player that was down on the ice and misses three exhibition games.
That Scott wasn’t injured shouldn’t be the issue; that Kessel went back to hurt him is. And the NHL blew it.
Especially when you see that additional footage so bizarrely added to this Department of Player Safety video, in which Kessel is shown slashing away at Philadelphia Flyers players this month. Did they feel they needed that to justify banning him for three practice games? Apparently, he’s wielding more lumber than a post-retirement Dexter but hey, it’s cool, no one was hurt.
One regular-season game. Something of consequence. Is that too much to ask for a player who earns a match penalty like this?
Instead, he’ll miss three scrimmages.
Swing away, NHLers …