NHL suspends Neal for 5 games, how many will Thornton get?

By Brad Constant, Dec. 10, 2013

People can go round and round about whether they think James Neal or Shawn Thornton was the dirtier player in Boston last Saturday night, Dec. 7. In fact, there is such a debate on Twitter that can be read on BleacherReport.com. But when it comes down to it, both players showed the uglier side of hockey and deserve to be suspended.

All of this got started when Pittsburgh Penguins’ defenseman Bruce Orpik hit Boston Bruins’ forward Loui Eriksson. At first it looked like another hard hit that happened to leave Eriksson woozy and slow to get up. But the replays show that Orpik did catch Eriksson on the chin, although it doesn’t look intentional, in our opinion. Either way, there is concern for Eriksson since he has already missed five games this season with a concussion after being the victim of another dirty hit. Watch the video below and see the hit that sparked everything.

Now enter our main villains, starting with the Thornton of the Bruins. As expected, the Boston tough guy went after Orpik during their first shift on the ice together. Thornton tried to like heck to get Orpik to fight but the Penguins’ defender wouldn’t drop the gloves and Thornton ended up getting a minor penalty.

However, things would escalate again later in the first period when our other villain, and Penguins’ forward, Neal kneed Boston’s Brad Marchand in the head as the Bruin forward was on the ice. As usual a gathering of players occurred, including Orpik and Thornton. But things got nasty when Thornton slew footed Orpik and punched the Pittsburgh defenseman in the head while he was on the ice. Watch the video below of both incidents.

As you can see, Orpik leaves the ice on a stretcher and was taken to a local hospital. Marchand got up and escaped major injury.

The National Hockey League has already comeback and issued Neal a five-game suspension. We say well done Brandon Shanahan and the NHL Department of Player Safety.

But that leaves us wondering what type of suspension Thornton will get. He is currently suspended indefinitely as he awaits an in-person hearing schedule for Friday, Dec. 13. We believe that a suspension of at least 10 games can be expected, and here is why.

Although, Thornton has no previous disciplinary history with the NHL, the League takes whether or not the victim of any infraction was injured. So while people may think that the headaches and neck stiffness that Orpik is experiencing are not that severe, the memory loss that has occurred is. In fact, Orpik cannot remember anything from after Saturday night’s national anthem. Memory loss is a brain injury, and brain injuries are as severe as injuries get.

So as we wait the NHL’s ruling, we leave with a video from the Department of Player Safety telling us why Neal received a five-game suspension. We also ask that you let us know who you think is the dirtier player by answering our poll below (there is a bet riding on this with the winner getting a free lunch so your participation is very important).

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Suspensions for goalie fights?

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Photo courtesy of BleacherReport.com.

By: Brad Constant, Nov. 5, 2013

Goalie fights have come under scrutiny after Philadelphia Flyers’ goaltender Ray Emery raced down the ice and forced the Washington Capitals’ goalie Braden Holtby to fight on Nov. 1. There has even been a report via ProHockeyTalk.com that the National Hockey League will discuss 10-game suspensions for goalie fights.

Such a suspension may be over board since goalie fights are part of hockey, granted it is a rare occurrence. The NHL would be wrong to eliminate goalie fights all together.

However, the NHL may be onto something. A repercussion for goalies that leave their zone to fight could help eliminate instances where a known fighter, Emery, forces an unwillingly adversary, Holtby, to a fight – more on that later. A three-game suspension may be just what the League needs to help better control such situations.

With that said, there needs to be certain stipulations in which it is within the rules for a goalie to get involved in a brawl. We’ll stick with the aforementioned teams for this example. Say the brawl occurs in the Flyers’ defensive zone and Emery gets involved. This puts the Flyers’ in the advantageous position of having an extra guy with the gloves off. Therefore there should not be any repercussions for Holtby coming to the aid of his teammates and evening out the numbers – this is especially important since there are only four officials on the ice to break things up. Plus Emery has done nothing wrong because he is still in his zone.

But say both goalies leave their respective zones to square off at center ice, much like the classic Chris Osgood vs. Patrick Roy fight in 1998. Do you penalize both and suspend them for say three games after? No way. Both are willing combatants that skated to center ice to throw punches at one another. There is nothing wrong with two players willingly fighting each other, regardless of their position.

The only time a suspension should even come into the question is when something like the Emery vs. Holtby fight happens. Emery was out of place to skate the length of the ice and go after Holtby, who, repeat, didn’t want to fight. The officials made the right call by giving Emery a game misconduct and sending him to the locker room early. But that isn’t enough to persuade such actions from happening in the future. A three-game suspension for a goaltender who skates to his team’s offensive zone and forces a fight upon an unwillingly adversary could be just the thing to dissuade such situations. It wouldn’t eliminate goalie fights, but it would help protect guys like Holtby who don’t want to fight.

Last but not least, Emery’s repeated blows to the back of Holtby’s head were a disgrace. It’s understandable if the occasional punch hits a guy in the back of the head. But Emery went off and continued to strike the back of Holtby’s head, which isn’t right. Kudos to Holtby for not turtling, and for smiling afterwards.