The lack of a suspension to Colton Orr for shoving a linesman is wrong on so many levels, it’s tough to know where to begin.
OK, it’s not that difficult. Let’s start with the obvious. It was blatantly illegal.
Don’t take my word for it. Read the NHL’s “Official Rules” book, 2009-10 edition, pg. 64, Rule 41.3 or 41.4. The former is an automatic 10-gamer for applying force to an official without intent to injure. The latter, an automatic three-gamer, covers applying force to a zebra “solely for the purpose of getting free of such an official during or immediately following an altercation.”
So, by the letter of the law, a hanging judge would give Orr 10 games, a benign arbiter three. Is there any other interpretation?
Clearly, the league believes so. Apparently, the NHL didn’t mete out supplemental discipline because the officials didn’t deem it an offense in their post-game report. And, in fairness, Rule 41.5 outlines a process by which the automatic suspension is levied, a course of action that depends on the game officials’ complaint.
But isn’t that just a cop out? How many times have we seen players banned for infractions that went un-penalized in the heat of battle? It happened just last week when Evgeny Artyukhin got three games for a slew foot that went undetected by the refs. Surely Gary Bettman, an omnipotent commissioner from what we’ve been told, has the authority to step in and pass judgment.
The league’s unwillingness to take action, and refusal to comment why not on the record, leaves us to draw conclusions. So here goes: 1. They believe Orr accidentally shoved Brian Murphy; or 2. They believe Orr was afraid of an unfair break-up – that Parros would get shots in while Murphy restrained him – so he was ostensibly acting in self-defense.
Neither passes the sniff test.
The video indisputably shows Orr intending to fend off Murphy. He connects in the middle of the chest with an open hand and extends his arm. No accident.
As for a fear of getting pummeled while being held, where’s the proof? Murphy tried to enter the fray from the middle and had yet to lay a hand on either combatant.
Even if Orr were doing it out of “self preservation,” it doesn’t wash. He was engaged in an illegal act – a fight – and he’s obligated to respect authority.
And we can’t even invoke the “first-time offender” defense, one in which he could be let off with a warning. Orr was suspended five games in 2006-07 for a reckless head shot on Alex Ovechkin. He escaped a second suspension in 2007-08 for a hit on Matt Cullen many felt should have cost him a few games.
By leaving the onus with the officials in the most recent episode, the league is inviting chaos. Its decision to do nothing tells enforcers they can dictate when a tussle is to be ended; that respect for lawmen is optional; and that what should be black and white when it comes to the black and white is, as it turns out, grey.
Jason Kay is the editor in chief of The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Fridays.
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