I could easily rant about Jordan Staal and how I feel about his new, four-year contract extension. Or I could beat a dead horse and discuss the recent plight of the Penguins and whether or not the coaches are to blame.
But I’m tired of it. Something else is troubling me — because it’s not troubling anybody else.
Former Penguin Jarkko Ruutu was suspended for two games after biting Andrew Peters of the Buffalo Sabres in a game on Jan. 6. There is my problem. Two games.
Sean Avery, another NHL player that is known for going a little bonkers on the ice, was suspended indefinitely for comments he said in Calgary before a game against the Flames. His comments were as follows:
“I am really happy to be back in Calgary, I love Canada,” Avery said Tuesday morning. “I just want to comment on how it’s become like a common thing in the NHL for guys to fall in love with my sloppy seconds. I don’t know what that’s about. Enjoy the game tonight.”
And thus, I’m confused.
Are we saying that physically injuring a player by using a tactic that is against the rules is not as obscene as making rude comments? Believe me, I’m the last guy who would support Sean Avery in anything. But it just doesn’t make sense.
Sure, Avery has had a troubled past in the league. That troubled past has left the league to take a stronger stance on his actions.
He has been known for several controversial events, including criticizing the NHLPA, insulting foreign players and, of course, the “Avery Rule.” But lets keep in mind, Ruutu has no pristine background either. As Penguins fans we can vouch for that.
He has always been a pest and, earlier this season, elbowed Maxim Lapierre in the head and recieved a two-game suspension.
As the past reminds us, biting in sports has been a huge deal. The most obvious incident involved Mike Tyson and the ‘ear bite’ of Evander Holyfield. While he was not removed from the sport for any period of time, his reputation has never been the same and triggered the downfall to the Tyson we know today … nutso.
There have been others. A high school wrestling coach in Pennsylvania was forced to resign after biting one of his wrestlers in practice. Tree Rollins was suspended for five games after biting Danny Ainge in an NBA playoff game in 1983.
I just think that this is another display of where the league if failing. There is a reason Gary Bettman gets booed everywhere he goes. Most recently, he was booed while attending the jersey retirement of Trevor Linden in Vancouver.
He and the league fail in so many ways to make the NHL and the sport of hockey appealing to the casual fan. Personally, I’ve been influenced by a terrible incident that turned me off from a sport.
I refuse to watch the NBA anymore. It is all because of the brawl between the Indiana Pacers and Detroit Pistons in Detroit on Nov. 19, 2004. They attacked each other, attacked fans and attacked my interest. I have no interest in watching that kind of nonsense and can understand why someone would see Jarkko Ruutu’s craziness and subsequently look down upon the sport of hockey.
Now, there was a lot more going on in that brawl in Detroit, but the principle remains the same.
I have a radio show at Kent State and we discussed fighting in hockey. One of my co-hosts, who is from Ohio and has trouble watching hockey on a consistent basis — because of interest, said he doesn’t understand fighting. After a lengthy conversation he, in part, came to understand fighting’s place in hockey. However, I wonder how he feels about this incident.
He said that fighting makes him NOT want to watch the game and I can’t believe that Jarkko Ruutu made him any more interested in becoming a hockey fan. This is surely the case to many other casual fans.
It’s also important to mention that this single event got more time on the major US sports networks than the NHL has seen probably all season — except for maybe Avery’s comments. So, therefore, you have more bad press if you are Gary Bettman. This is, again, why I’m confused.
Use this moment to punish Ruutu the same way you punished Avery. Here we have a player that is out of control with his emotions and did something to attract bad view upon your league/sport. Do the right thing and make his punishment make an impact. Two games is like a little vacation to Ruutu.
There’s a reason guys from the opposing team are trying to find him in the locker room after the game. His actions are not good for the sport and something needs to be done about it … and not just to him, to any player whose actions spoil the integrity of the game.
Chris | PPT