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Dinger’s Take: Bruins-Penguins Playback

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By: Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

By: Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

Dinger Solo Chris Dingman
Chris 'Dinger' Dingman took part in one of the most momentous spor...
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What happened Saturday night between Pittsburgh and Boston could have
been avoided. The sequence of events snowballed and gave hockey a black
eye, no pun intended. The fighting debate has bubbled up again, both
sides pushing their position. The code has been called into question as
well, and amidst all of the rhetoric, I still feel that fighting is a
necessary evil in hockey and that, in this case, one fight could have
prevented all of the mayhem that followed the initial hit.

To give some perspective, the Bruins and Penguins already have a sordid
history: encounters between Cam Neely and Ulf Samuelsson, for example,
as well as the hit Matt Cooke delivered to Marc Savard that ended his
career.

Saturday night, Brooks Orpik (who I would take on my team) laid a hard,
but questionable hit on Bruins forward Loui Eriksson, who has a history
of concussions, therefore putting him out of the game. A few Bruins
challenged Orpik after the fact, most notably Shawn Thornton, pushing
him repeatedly and asking him to fight and be accountable for his
actions. Orpik declined and it has since been argued that Orpik
shouldn’t be fighting out of his weight class, walking around at 6’2,
212lbs. But Thornton is similar in stature at 6’2, 217lbs, so I don’t
see where that argument has any merit.

At that moment, Shawn Thornton was most likely thinking, “one of our
best players just got concussed in our arena. That can’t happen!” The
first thing an enforcer can do is to ask said player to fight. It is up
to that player to accept or decline. If that player declines, option
two is to run around, hit the other team’s skilled players hard, give
them an extra push, face wash, etc. Someone or multiple players from
the opposing team will most likely tell you where to go and how to do
it. Thornton wasn’t going to stop until he fought Orpik because, like
it or not, teammates stick up for each other. In hockey, it is what we
pride ourselves on.

A good example of this is that following Matt Cooke’s questionable hit
on Marc Savard, he finally answered the bell and fought Shawn Thornton,
bringing the issue to a close. He answered for what he did and nothing
crazy happened the rest of the game. It reminds me of all of the brawls
between the Avalanche and the Red Wings: a questionable hit by Claude
Lemieux on Red Wings’ Kris Draper led to fights, payback, and brawls
that continued well into the playoffs every year and managed to
entangle multiple players.

In terms of Boston, Thornton prides himself on sticking up for his
teammates and he is also an important player who plays in the playoffs
for the Bruins. He honored the code, but with Orpik refusing to engage,
James Neal (who is a repeat offender) kneed a downed Brad Marchand,
claiming it was accident… A scrum ensued and Thornton pulled Orpik to
the ice, punching him twice and concussing him.

Let me say that what Thornton did was wrong. However, right or wrong,
in his mind he had to do it because if he didn’t, the team would find
someone who would. Scribes have said that Thornton’s actions were worse
than Neal’s because of the resulting injury. To me, the result doesn’t
matter as much as the intent. If you punch or knee someone in the head,
you’re intending to hurt them. Period. They were both wrong. I honestly
think that had Orpik just fought, it would’ve deescalated the
situation, thus avoiding what ensued. So far Neal has received a five
game suspension and Thornton is still waiting for his in-person
hearing.

You be the judge. Is it fair? Does the punishment fit the crime?

Dinger

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