NHL's Season of Mayhem
Canucks vent their anger
The 2010-11 NHL season seemed like one long series of head shots, concussions, brawls, suspensions, and other related controversies that overshadowed otherwise sterling play and exciting playoff chases. So it was perversely fitting that the Stanley Cup Final between the Bruins and Canucks would be full of more of the same, ending with a massive, violent riot by fans in the streets of Vancouver after Game 7. Here's a look back at the long, dark season.
Rome's hit on Horton
Right winger Nathan Horton of the Bruins was hospitalized after being levelled by a shoulder to the head from defenseman Aaron Rome of the Canucks. Rome was ejected and later received a four-game suspension for the blindside hit in a game that turned ugly, producing 20 penalties, including a fight between Canucks center Ryan Kesler and Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg, and nine 10-minute misconducts.
Alex Burrows bites <br> Patrice Bergeron
During a scrum at the end of the first period, Canucks winger Alex Burrows appeared to bite the finger of Bruins center Patrice Bergeron. The NHL later declined to suspend Burrows after reviewing the incident and finding "no conclusive evidence" of the bite, although Bergeron was seen wearing a bandage on his finger after the game. But a fuse was lit, and after Burrows scored two goals, including the winner, in Game 2, Max Lapierre of the Canucks taunted Bergeron by waving fingers in his face. It was a gesture the Bruins used during their 8-1 rout of Vancouver in a heated Game 3.
Raffi Torres suspended
The Vancouver Canucks forward drew a five-minute major for elbowing and a game misconduct for targeting the head of Edmonton's Jordan Eberle. Torres protested his innocence after the game, saying, "The way the league has changed in the last five or six years, if I don't finish my hit, I'm going to be out of a job. At the end of the day, I'm not trying to hurt anybody out there. It's the last thing I want to do." Upon further review, NHL Hockey Operations decided to sit Torres for four games, which meant he would miss Vancouver's last two games of the regular season and its first two of the playoffs.
Matt Cooke suspended
In the third period of a game in Pittsburgh, Cooke delivered an elbow to the head of Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh and was ejected, further embellishing his reputation as the NHL's dirtiest player. (Cooke's hit on Boston's Marc Savard in March 2010 led the NHL to adopt Rule 48 banning lateral and blindside blows to the head). The McDonagh shot was Cooke's third such incident of the season and it came in the wake of GM meetings at which tougher penalties for headshots were proposed. Cooke also put his own team's owner, Mario Lemieux, in an embarrassing position after Lemieux had called for stiff fines for teams and suspensions for coaches. It was Cooke's third such incident of the season, and he was promptly summoned to a meeting in Toronto with NHL discipline czar Colin Campbell. With four previous suspensions on his record, Cooke was banned for the rest of the regular season and the first round of the playoffs, without pay.
Brad Marchand, Dany Heatley
While NHL GMs were meeting and debating rules changes to stem headshots and the growing carnage, Brad Marchand of the Bruins laid an unpenalized elbow to the head of the Blue Jackets' R.J. Umberger, but received a two-game ban without pay. That same night, Dany Heatley of the Sharks delivered an elbow to the head of the Stars' Steve Ott that drew a minor penalty for interference and a two-game suspension without pay. "Protect the guys," Ott, who was uninjured, said after the game. "We're going to have guys that are going to be icing heads now. You only have one brain, so let's honestly start figuring something out."
Pavel Kubina suspended
Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Pavel Kubina was given a three-game suspension for throwing an elbow to the head of David Bolland, the Chicago Blackhawks forward. The hit did not draw a penalty, but Bolland was dazed. He left the game and did not return.
Chara's hit on Pacioretty
Zdeno Chara's crushing hit drove Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty's head into a turnbuckle, leaving him hospitalized with a concussion and a fractured vertebra. A firestorm ensued when the NHL failed to suspend the Bruins' defenseman. Montreal police launched an investigation, sponsor Air Canada threatened to withdraw support of the NHL, and debate swirled about the league's inability, or unwillingness, to curb violence in the sport.
The Probert report
The New York Times reported that researchers at Boston University had discovered traces of the debilitating disease Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy in the donated brain of late enforcer Bob Probert. The finding was similar to what was found in Reggie Fleming, a brawler from the 1960s and `70s, and it kindled debate about the role and effects of fighting in hockey. The BU center's co-director, Dr. Robert Cantu, admitted the evidence was unclear, and polls of players and fans revealed that fighting remains a popular, posing further problems for the NHL when it comes to safety without diminishing the game's physicality and alienating a large part of its audience.
Trevor Gillies suspended
In his first game back from a nine-game suspension for his role in a wild brawl with the Penguins on Feb. 11, the Islanders' roughneck used his forearm to drive the head of Minnesota's Cal Clutterbuck into the glass. Gillies was given a five-minute checking-from-behind penalty and ejected. He later received another 10-game ban, moving even commentator Mike Milbury, who had criticized the NHL for going to "namby-pamby land" by penalizing brutal hits, to say, "This is a guy that crosses the line and doesn't know what's appropriate and what's inappropriate behavior in a hockey game."
Mikhail Grabovsky staggered
The Maple Leafs forward became the subject of discussion about player safety when he was dazed by two hits from Boston's Zdeno Chara and continued to play, scoring two goals. Toronto neurosurgeon Dr. Robert Tator later said he had observed signs of concussion in Grabovsky's wobbly behavior, but the Leafs insisted they followed the NHL's stringent safeguards in such instances. To its credit, the NHL is studying improved protocols for use possibly as early as next season.
Brad Richards concussed
With the Dallas Stars making a playoff push, their leading scorer and All-Star forward was concussed by a collision with Sami Pahlsson of the Blue Jackets and did not play again until March 9. In the meantime, his uncertain condition created complications in any attempt by Dallas to trade him at the Feb. 28 deadline while adding fuel to the discussion about the number of players who had been sidelined by concussions in recent years and if the game is being played at an unsafe speed by bigger, stronger athletes, some of whom lack proper respect for others
Nine days after losing goalie Rick DiPietro to a facial fracture in a fight with Pens goaltender Brent Johnson, the Isles exacted revenge with a 9-3 win in which both teams racked up 346 penalty minutes, 10 ejections, 15 fighting majors and 20 misconducts. The incident moved Pens owner Mario Lemieux to decry the game as "a travesty...unacceptable and embarrassing to the sport." The Isles were fined $100,000 for failing to control their players. Forwards Michael Haley (four games) and Trevor Gillies (nine) were suspended. Gillies boarded, concussed, punched and taunted Pittsburgh's Eric Tangradi as the injured Penguin lay on the ice.
Bruins and Canadiens brawl
The two bitter Original Six rivals squared off in a game that produced 182 penalty minutes, 12 fighting majors, and four misconducts. Even goalies Tim Thomas of the Bruins and Carey Price of the Canadiens got in on the action. One of the more arresting sights was the beat-down of Montreal's Tom Pyatt by Bruins forward Gregory Campbell, the son of NHL discipline czar Colin Campbell, who has been in the awkward position of having to recuse himself from all decisions involving Boston.
Matt Cooke's dirty hits
Cooke was again in the spotlight after delivering a dangerous knee-on-knee hit to Capitals superstar Alex Ovechkin (left) during a nationally televised game. After being warned by the NHL, he earned a four-game suspension two days later by viciously boarding Blue Jackets defenseman Fedor Tyutin.
Brian Boyle and <br> Anton Volchenkov
In an incident that many observers pointed to as evidence of the NHL's indulgence of dangerous hits, 6'-7" Rangers center Brian Boyle was not penalized or disciplined for delivering from behind an elbow to the head of Canadiens defenseman Jaroslav Spacek. Three days later, Devils defenseman Anton Volchenkov was given a minor penalty and then a three-game suspension for his elbow to the head of Hurricanes forward Zach Boychuk (inset), who was not hurt and stayed in the game.
Bruins and Stars brawl
The two teams, who had bad blood dating back to a fight-filled game in 2008, went at it again with three bouts in the first four seconds. Once again, Colin Campbell's son had a prominent role while squaring off with Stars agitator Steve Ott. When the smoke cleared, 91 penalty minutes, eight fighting majors, two 10-minute misconducts, one game misconduct and a suspension had been handed out. Krys Barch and Adam Burish of the Stars were also injured in the fracas.
Daniel Paille suspended
The ugliest incident in the Bruins-Stars brawlfest was the blindside hit that Bruins winger Paille laid on Raymond Sawada, breaking the Dallas winger's nose and leaving him with a shoulder injury. Paille received a four-game suspension and his teammate Andrew Ference candidly admitted, "I mean, it's a bad hit, right? That's what they're trying to get rid of. You can't be a hypocrite and complain about it when it happens to you and say it's fine when your teammate does it."
Brent Johnson vs. Rick DiPietro
Penguins netminder Johnson took exception to DiPietro's shove of Matt Cooke in the Islanders' goal crease during the final moments of Pittsburgh's 3-0 win and skated the length of the ice to take on his counterpart while the two teams mixed it up. Johnson dropped the grinning DiPietro with one punch, breaking bones in his face and sidelining him for four to six weeks.
Gary Bettman on concussions
At his All-Star Game press conference in Raleigh, the commissioner cited a study on the effectiveness of the league's new Rule 48 banning blindside and lateral hits to the head that found concussions were up in 2010-11, but mostly due to accidental contact. Those caused by the newly-outlawed hits were down. "The concussion thing is the topic du jour," said Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke. "It'll be shoulders next year if there's a rash of shoulder injuries. Frankly, I think the biggest reason we're focused on concussions is because of Sidney (Crosby). If Mike Brown got that concussion, would you guys all be around with cameras asking about concussions? I don't think so."
Marc Savard concussed
Colorado defenseman Matt Hunwick devastated his former Bruins teammate with a legal hit that sent Savard into the glass, leaving him writhing and dazed. Savard, who had returned from a long recovery from a concussion suffered in March 2010, was again sidelined indefinitely, his career now in question. "He feels terrible, but that one wasn't his fault at all," Savard said. "I was skating fast for once it felt like, and he just finished his check."
Scott Nichol suspended
No penalty was called on Nichol when he laid a high hit to the head of Coyotes defenseman David Schlemko, who had to leave the game. But with the NHL under growing scrutiny, a four-game suspension came down, leaving the Sharks' physical pest surprised. "Just a total hockey play," he said.
Tom Kostopoulos suspended
The Calgary Flames forward was suspended six games for breaking the jaw of Red Wings defenseman Brad Stuart, who was not in possession of the puck. "Kostopoulos delivered a blow to the head of an unsuspecting and vulnerable player," NHL discipline czar Colin Campbell said in a statement. "As well, he targeted the head of his opponent and, while the hit was not from the blindside, the head was the principle point of contact." Kostopoulous had also concussed Minnesota's Nick Schultz with an elbow in December.
Sidney Crosby concussed
The NHL's biggest star, who was having an MVP-caliber season, was concussed twice in four days, the first by a collision with Washington's David Steckel during the nationally-televised and much-ballyhooed Winter Classic outdoor game New Year's Day, the second when he was boarded by Tampa Bay defenseman Victor Hedman, who received a two-minute minor. Crosby was sidelined indefinitely, his injuries casting a sharp spotlight on the NHL's ongoing problems with concussions, headshots and boarding.
Tim Gleason and <br> Mathieu Perreault
Carolina blueliner Gleason's shoulder broke the visor and nose of the Capitals forward, leaving him in a bloody heap. Gleason received a five-minute penalty for charging and a game misconduct, but avoided suspension for a hit that many, including his team, thought was clean because he did not leave his feet or raise his elbow.
Marc Staal and Matt Stajan
Rangers defenseman Staal leveled the Flames forward with a questionable shoulder to the head that left the Flames forward dazed on the ice and out of the game. No penalty was called and the league did not impose supplementary discipline. "I bent my knees, my elbows didn't come up," Staal said. "I stayed low. I caught most of it on my side more than anything else." Stajan soon returned to action with the Flames.
NHL VP of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell, who is in charge of meting out supplemental discipline in cases of dangerous hits and brawls, came under fire for his inconsistent rulings as well as for leaked e-mail from 2006 and 2007 in which he referred to Boston's Marc Savard as a "faker" and criticized a former referee who had ruled against Campbell's son Gregory, raising the specter of favoritism and conflict of interest. Colin Campbell has continually recused himself from all decisions involving his son's team, but the fact that this arrangement has persisted has been questioned by fans and the media.
Joe Thornton suspended
In one of the first tests of the NHL's new Rule 48, Blues winger David Perron was concussed by a shoulder to the head from the big Sharks center. Perron kept playing and later scored a goal, but was sidelined indefinitely. Thornton was ejected and suspended two games, appealing the decision (he lost) and expressing confusion about what kind of hits are now legal: "I braced myself for the hit and he just ran into me. That's all I thought had happened." Thornton brother (and agent) said, "The league once again failed to follow any precedent they have set when making disciplinary decisions. They stated this was most similar to the [Nick] Foligno hit [on Pat Dwyer earlier this season] which only resulted in a $2,500 fine."
Rick Rypien vs. Wild fan
After fights with Minnesota's Brad Staubitz, Canucks forward Rick Rypien was given a double minor for roughing and a 10-minute misconduct. As he exited the ice, Rypien grabbed a jeering Wild fan by the shirt and had to be pulled away by teammate Manny Malhotra. Rypien was immediately suspended pending a hearing with the NHL to determine how long he would sit. He got six games and was fined $25,000. Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement: "We hold NHL players to a high standard, and there simply is no excuse for conduct of this nature. Fortunately, this incident is not typical of the way NHL players conduct themselves and is not typical of the way Mr. Rypien had conducted himself during his career."