Just Give Me a Reason

I suppose we need to talk about this.  I really don’t want to.

I hate the Bruins.  Chuck hates the Penguins.  And while there’s plenty to shout about the opposition in last night’s debacle, it left more than enough responsibility for our own teams.  Two incidents, two aggressors, two outcomes.  I’ll leave it to Chuck to talk about Shawn Thornton if she’d like.

On James Neal

I’ve always joked that “hockey is my boyfriend” but in a way, I’m serious – I am in a committed relationship with hockey.  I spend time with it.  Its moods fascinate me.  When we fight, I imagine leaving it forever and starting over somewhere new, but in reality I’m always coming back.  I have given my heart to the game, and in doing so have given this game the power to hurt me.

Boy, did last night hurt.


James Neal, I don’t understand you.  Personally, I’d be satisfied with a rise from relative obscurity to a marquee team, the ability to bang out 40 goal seasons and a chemistry that borders on magic with one the game’s very best players.  I would enjoy a run of 7 multi-point nights in 9 games, 20 points in just 16 games and the opportunity to prove I can flourish on my own, without Malkin at my side.  I’d check the standings and think the top looks pretty good, let’s maybe try to stay there.

So why?  What purpose beyond petulance does kneeing Marchand in the head serve?  This isn’t the candy aisle at Target and so an acceptable venue for your tantrum.  You don’t like the guy.  Neither do I.  But I do like hockey, the Penguins and winning – in that order.  On those topics I feel we must surely disagree.


Really good piece on last night from Days Of Y’Orr.

Roughing up Marchand is not your job.  If you want to volunteer for the task, by all means fight him.  You know he’ll go.  But hitting a defenseless guy is shitty.  Hitting him in the head is worse.  Doing it intentionally is revolting and then having the gall to lie about it… you should be ashamed of yourself.  I certainly am.  We have TVs, remember?  Those things that see the entire ice and capture moments forever?  Your post-game sadface lie was about as blatant as your intent on the play.


Having your infraction accompanied, if not overshadowed, by Shawn Thornton’s does not excuse it.  It does not mitigate.  In fact it compounds, like two cars driven by assholes straight into each other at high speed.  Twice the force of everyone’s stupidity, twice the impact on hockey.  I tried to think how I would feel if an opposing player did that to one of the Penguins.  A bag of animal crackers immediately lost its life and I decided no, I can still give other players the benefit of the doubt.  They wouldn’t do that, right?  Even if another one just did?  Maybe I’m naive and the game today has become something I can no longer defend.  I don’t know.  The only thing certain is that I cannot defend you.

Take a break, Neal.  Take your repeat offender status, your fine and/or suspension and sleep on the couch for a while before I decide if I’m taking you back.  This team put its faith in you.  Let’s see you put this team ahead of yourself and your ego.  The saying goes ‘It’s better to be lucky than smart,’ but if your success is based on talent, skill and ability – not luck – then I do not understand why you can’t be smart.


(Playoffs 2012: The last time I was really mad at James, for a similarly moronic series of actions.  My patience and forgiveness are not infinite, sir.)

I hate this about hockey.  I hate the culture of violence that  has gone from footnote to title.  I believe the rough stuff serves a purpose in the game and understand that role is hard to police.  It used to be that players did it themselves – “the code” everyone’s always tossing around.  You don’t go after defenseless guys, goons don’t run superstars and so on until you realize that’s moronic, they’re “more like guidelines” and you’ve been outsmarted by the two dumbest pirates on The Black Pearl.  It’s crazy to think of fighting as a privilege, so maybe it’s more like  weapon, meant to be used precisely and with care, only when required.  If you can’t use it wisely it will be taken away.  With power comes responsibility and right now the NHL requires no consistent responsibility from players, and so fails in that responsibility as an organization.

Suspensions should happen.  I believe the outcome of an incident should matter, but not more than intent.  Only luck separates injury from escape – it should not be relied upon to determine punishment.  It should be thanked and counted, then luck should be left for clanging goal posts and catching gloves, for seeing-eye shots and the moments with 0.3 seconds left when your team needs – no, deserves! – a goal, a tie, a win.  Luck should be for the game, not used as a get out of jail free card.


This hurt as much to write as it did to watch that game last night.  You guys know I love James Neal but I can’t stand behind this kind of play.  Nor can I be a fan who sees no fault in her own team.  No one team, even mine, is greater than the game.

Ugh.  Can someone please bring me the Oilers and a litter of puppies?

Tags: , , ,

Leave a Reply

  1. Pants – you’ve put words to how I feel, in a way I couldn’t have done. I love James, but my love for hockey is stronger, and it hurts (yes it hurts) to see someone you’re a fan of act in such a way. As fans we invest a lot into following our teams, both collectively and the players as individuals, and is sucks to see that thrown in our faces. Well it sucks for me. And of course, for the team, it could potentially mean the Pens are without the stars of their second line for however many games. This being dependent on how many games James is banned for and how long Geno will be out (here’s hoping not much longer). James and I are in a rocky place right now.

    • Kaitlin Reply

      I definitely comprehend your James Neal feels. I am NOT happy with him right now either. I heard that since he’s having a phone hearing he won’t be suspended for more than 5 games…

  2. Casey Reply

    I’m a diehard Boston fan, and will stand by them forever (hello Sox, and Bruins curse..). But, what I won’t stand by is their lack of competence and decency. I too understand that there is a time and place where roughing someone up will help get the team their momentum and get things spiced up. But, what I don’t get and what I will never understand is how going after defenseless players is something that is still on the table for discussion, or rather still on the players’ table for discussion. What does this even accomplish? Surely it can’t accomplish something satisfying to the ego.. oh yeah I went after a person who couldn’t defend themselves? That’s pathetic. I’m ashamed of both teams, frankly. I would hope that two of the best, and most popular teams in the league would lead by example rather than completely disrespect their teammates, the league, the fans, etc.

  3. This is one of the best, most eloquent pieces I’ve read about the game. The act itself was bad enough, but his blatant lying and lack of remorse afterwards disappointed me in a whole other way. I don’t like either team or either player, but at least Thornton took the right first step by apologizing. The whole thing just makes me sad. What has our favorite game become?

  4. Kaitlin Reply

    Well put Pants. Very well put. Those, what was it two minutes? Not even? It felt like an eternity. Regardless, that sequence made my hockey loving heart hurt. I hate to see another player target another, particularly when they’re vulnerable. I hate to see hits to the head. And I hate to see players carried off the ice. A very, very sad day for hockey. Especially given the amount of coverage it’s getting.

    Two of my friends have corgis. It’s snowed so much that they’re legs are covered. Would you like to go play with them? I think we should.

    • Pants Reply

      Kaitlin, I will be right over with some Corgi treats. 🙂

  5. Fantastic, and as another Penguins fan, I’ll bet that hurt like hell to write. I honestly missed the Neal knee to Marchand, but some gifs and Vines caught me up pretty quickly. Just because Thornton’s actions were terrible doesn’t make Neal innocent, and he deserves suspension time, too. On top of the injury he could have caused Marchand, doing anything that can open him up to suspension when the team’s already half-AHL players is incredibly selfish and stupid.

    I hate everything about last night’s game. It took the taste right out of my Lindor chocolate. And yet I’m still wearing my Niemi jersey and about to turn on the Sharks game. *sigh*

  6. Becca Reply

    Incredibly well said, Pants! And as a Bruins fan, I can honestly say I was disgusted by what Thornton did as well. What also disgusts me is people defending his actions. These are the fans who give us all bad names. Both Neal and Thornton were incredibly wrong in what they did and there are no excuses that could change that. Neal is one of the few Pens I actually do like, and listening to him after the game was just pathetic. It’s sad but I’ve definitely lost respect for both players…

  7. Robyn Reply

    This is a terrific article. You said the hardest thing, “you let me down” and you didn’t minimize the infraction, as some have. That whole game was tough to watch ( as i switched back and forth from the Caps game.) Although I’m not a fan of either team, I love hockey and no one wants to see this happen. I hope the best for the health of all the injured players and I’m expecting swift and painful penalties. Thank you for the article.

  8. Alison Reply

    As a fan of hockey, I was ashamed by last night’s disgusting behavior which represented everything bad about the sport. It gives fuel to those that hate the sport and think it’s all about violence. I’m turning in my membership card to the James Neal fan club. I’m out. Peace.

  9. Pants Reply

    Sadly not Neal’s first “one moment,” as he’s been suspended twice before (2009 – 2 games/hit from behind on Columbus’ Derek Dorsett; 2012 – 1 game/charge on Giroux). Though the last was over 18 months ago, negating his official repeat offender status so it won’t factor into any suspension assessed this time.

  10. Vanessa Reply

    Agreed. As a Hawks fan (first and foremost) and a Bruins fan second, but also a Neal fan, I’ve been left sort of disgusted all around by the on-ice actions of some present and former players. Between Emery’s attack on Holtby and now this game last night, that’s some really ugly stuff and is completely unnecessary. I don’t mind fighting in hockey, when it’s two guys dropping gloves (I do martial arts, after all, so two willing combatants is A-ok by me), but that’s an entirely different thing than an assault. And it’s not the same as boarding or highsticking, where it’s a penalty but a common risk, but they know at least that it’s a possibility.

    I had some slight comfort in the fact that Thornton looked distraught during his interviews and actually sincere in his apologies, though I don’t for one second excuse him.

    In any case, have you seen the pics of Jonathan Toews rolling around with a puppy?

    • Kaitlin Reply

      Ugh Emery. I try to utter his name as little as possible. Also, whatever Rinaldo did around 2 pm yesterday. I just saw the replay and I’m still not exactly sure what it was but I will say it was unacceptable. Please to be posting pics of Toews + puppy. Finals are a dark and horrible time and these on-ice shenanigans are just making it darker.

  11. Brian Falla Reply

    Great work, Pants.
    You hit it right on the screws. Last night was a litmus test for hockey fans: Did you truly care who won, or did you feel like vomiting all over the rug?
    I would submit true hockey fans opted for the the latter.
    But yet the question cuts me deeper. I heartily cheer for a team (Bruins) that employs a guy who really should be in jail today if that assault took place anywhere but on the TD Garden ice. It’s hard to come to peace with that, and yet it seems hockey fans are forced to do it, seemingly, all the time. It’s crazy, and it’s painful, and I’m not sure how much longer I can do it.
    Why are we, as fans, left to sift through the rubble of our consciences and decide how much we can stomach, or worse, whether or not we allow our kids to watch the game we love?

    • Alison Reply

      My kids (two mite age hockey players) watched last night’s NHL highlights in complete disgust and covered their eyes when they watched Thorton assault Oprik. They love hockey and my older one played three consecutive hours this morning and loved every minute, but I’d like him to be able to watch a sport he loves and admire the players for their behavior on and off the ice. Kids need heroes and the bad guys overshadow the good guys in this sport. I’d like to see the NHL take a bold stand and kick players out of the league for behavior that would land them in jail if they were in a bar and wearing street clothes.

  12. My thoughts exactly, though you put it way more eloquently than I ever could have. Despite my ire for the Pens, I respec(ed) and admire(d) Neal for his raw talent, but I was just disgusted watching that game. Between Neal and Thornton, I felt like this boyfriend game of mine had betrayed me and topped it off by kicked my kitten. Games like that are the reason that people do and will continue to lobby for fighting to be taken out of the game. I much preferred when physicality like that took a backseat to pretty goals and epic dekes.

  13. Cassy Reply

    Such a great piece, Pants. People don’t often talk about the Pens-Bruins bad feeling. It has been there for such a long time and the Savard incident didn’t help.

    Four players were badly hurt last night, three of them deliberately targeted. Kids watch this game. Time to clean house.

  14. Janelle Reply

    I thought the whole tone of the game would have been different if the referees had better control. Very frustrating and scary to watch.

  15. Kathy Reply

    I truly love the game of hockey but the displays of idiocy by some of its players has left me truly disappointed and disgusted. There are more appropriate ways to motivate your team and defend a teammate. As a Flyers fan(feel free to boo me. lol!) I was angry at Rinaldo’s actions. I really hope that the coach disciplines him in some way because what he did was foolish and stupid. Oh and Emery’s actions weeks ago falls into the same category for me. I may bleed orange and black but I can’t ever condone those types of actions even from my Flyboys. Nor should anybody from their teams. I, too, can’t stand when those types of behaviors are defended or justified. It’s a rough sport but it should be played with some level of sportsmanship and class. Well said, Pants.

  16. Meghan Reply

    Amen sister. I was so mad at Jimmy last night. Still not sure where I stand on him right now. Glad there’s someone else with similar feelings.

    • Kaitlin Reply


  17. Well said Pants. I’m a diehard Hawks fan and it would KILL me if my team was part of something like this. What I don’t get is I read these columns on other hockey sites and these “fans” stick up for these players and their goon behavior.

    Neal’s actions were bad enough, but his blatant lying left a bad taste in my mouth. Wrong on so many levels and it made him look very bad. Thornton’s actions were even worse. Thornton did this to Orpik, a guy he skates with in the off season; a friend. He not only took him down he bashed his head into the ice until he lost consciousness. Who does that??? It was appalling. It’s always appalling when you see a guy lifeless on the ice. What is it going to to take to change what’s going on? Does someone need to be paralyzed? put in a coma? I don’t know.

    Only positive thing, my Hawks won tonight.

  18. I read 2 things on the internet yesterday. The first was this – which made me cry because it so eloquently put into words exactly how I felt after watching the game on Saturday.

    The second was an article that compiled statements from a group of Bruins fans who believe that Orpik is faking his injuries and a group of Boston media members who believe he got what he deserved.

    Thanks for being a little bit of good on the internet Pants.

  19. Pingback: Stop the Madness | What's Up, Ya Sieve?