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Mike Milbury on NHL suspensions: ‘a lot of pink hats out there’

NBC Sports Group held its annual media call on Monday, which is a chance to ask its assembled hockey experts all sorts of questions about the upcoming season.

It didn't take long before Kevin Dupont of the Boston Globe addressed the hottest topic in the NHL: The wave of preseason suspensions under new Executive VP of Player Safety Brendan Shanahan(notes), and what they mean for this season and beyond.

Play-by-play diety Doc Emrick endorsed the heavy suspensions, but worried if hockey would be become "two-hand touch football" down the line. Analyst Ed Olczyk sees it as a work in progress but that it should target players with intent to injure. The man inside the glass, Pierre McGuire, evoked the names of Nathan Horton(notes) and Marc Savard(notes) in applauding Shanahan's firm hand, and that "it's one of those issues that have to sort itself out, and I think it will."

Then it was Mike Milbury's turn. Boy, was it:

"I was listening to the Muzak before this conversation. I was trying to get into a soothed mood. Leave it to Kevin Dupont to piss me off.

"I think if this goes the way it's going right now, it'll do more than if they took fighting out of the game. If it's called like this — and with all due respect to all the excellent comments by Edzo and Pierre and Doc — if this is the way they're going to call it, it is going to turn into touch football. People don't want to lose tens of thousands of dollars, going out for 10 and 20 games for what have been, sometimes, really vicious hits and sometimes questionable calls, in my opinion.

"I think right now the way it's called sucks."

"I don't like it. I don't like the trend of it. And I hope my colleagues are right that this is a work in progress. That they're being tough early and we're going to settle down and things are going to get back to where it should be.

"I wonder: Would the Bruins have won the Stanley Cup had the standard had changed to what Brendan Shanahan has made it today? I wonder if that would be the case. I think we might have had a different champion, and I wouldn't have liked that. I loved the way they played. I love the way they hit everything that moved.

"I'm not talking about head shots. I don't like head shots. I don't like concussions either. But right now, there's a lot of pink hats out there. And I don't wear a pink hat. Just ties."

Pink hats?! The pansification of headwear!

You know, maybe it's the retirement of Andy Rooney from "60 Minutes" that has us all warm and fuzzy about the curmudgeon's place in society, but it's refreshing to have at least one dinosaur roaring through the poetry being written for Shanahan and the NHL these days.

Sure, a lot of it really doesn't make sense: Railing against the vigorous enforcement against head shots before saying, "I'm not talking about head shots."

Yeah, the crux of his Bruins hypothetical is an undying fear that the Sedins will have their "Thelma and Louise" on the Stanley Cup one day.

But we need Mike Milbury in this debate: Either as the last growling voice of a bygone era or as the guy you hate yourself for agreeing with on issues such as these.

Honestly, can you imagine the chaos if the NHL became two-hand touch? Referees already have so many subjective calls that we don't need them to rule on "finger tips."

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