During Game 4 of the Western Conference quarterfinals against the Nashville Predators last season, Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith(notes) created a YouTube classic when he squirted his water bottle at the penalty box glass in response to a belligerent Nashville Predators fan:
The incident played like a goofy highlight to some ... but not so much in Nashville. John Glennon of The Tennessean petitioned the NHL to see if Keith would be suspended (he wasn't) or fined (he wasn't, at least publicly) for his actions. Dirk Hoag of On The Forecheck argued that if New York Rangers Coach John Tortorella could be suspended in the 2009 playoffs for a water bottle incident with a Washington Capitals fan, then Keith should have been suspended under the same NHL memorandum.
Even where a fan is verbally abusive, intoxicated, or profane, club personnel should either ignore the conduct or, where appropriate, seek the assistance of police or security personnel at the arena. This prohibition extends to all forms of physical contact, whether it be direct physical contact, the throwing of objects (including hockey sticks and other equipment) or even the squirting of water. While the latter form of conduct may have, in the past, seemed to be of a minor or harmless character, such conduct may serve only to incite and provoke an unruly fan and may ultimately lead to unforeseen consequences.
If those standards slipped last season, the NHL has made it clear this preseason: What Duncan Keith did in Nashville will not be tolerated in 2010-11.
Annually, the NHL releases a video that chronicles new rules for the coming season and offers "points of emphasis" existing regulations.
On Monday, the League posted the following 6-minute clip that painstakingly details what constitutes a legal or illegal hit under the new blindside head-shot rule agreed to earlier this year. It also covers new rules on physical contact during an icing. But near the end, the clip reaffirms some rules already on the books: about fighting during warm-ups (a $25,000 fine!), players engaging in fights "off the playing surface" and, beginning around the 5:16 mark, rules of decorum for players (stick-tap Kukla):
For the video impaired, he's what the clip says about decorum:
"Any identifiable player who uses obscene, profane or abusive language or gestures directed at any person runs the risk of an unsportsmanlike penalty and possible supplemental discipline."
And did you catch which clip they used as an example of what not to do?
Two things. First, Predators fans have a right to see this and become royally pissed that Keith wasn't penalized for this and then played in a critical Game 5, of what was a 2-2 series, without recourse. As Hoag pointed out: It was a rule on the books that had been enforced in the previous postseason; and now the NHL is acknowledging, through this video, that it's unacceptable behavior.
That was the logical side of our brain talking. The other side of our brain -- the one that likes beer pong and shooting off bottle rockets -- sees this rule, this clip, this scenario and thinks "c'mon, you killjoys."
A player gets incessantly chirped at inside the sin bin, squirts a little water at the glass ... who cares? Unless that chubby mouth-breather was made of sugar, he's fine. And if the argument from the League is that a little water squirt could lead to a larger incident, then you might as well ban Rage Agaisnt The Machine songs in the arena and any form of post-goal celebrations, because there's simply no accounting for morons.