Ruff Fined $10,000 for Goon Squad Line

The NHL has a mess on its hands. It appears there will be no suspensions for Thursday night’s Ottawa-Buffalo brawl.

Many people are decrying the NHL‘s policy of not protecting players from head hits (either by penalty or suspension). The hit on Buffalo’s Chris Drury Thursday is considered a clean hit for there is no rule against using your shoulder pad as a weapon to the head. For the act of sending three Buffalo tough guys on the ice and telling them “Go out and run ’em.”, Lindy Ruff is fined. This type of coaches action has been eliminated from the NHL for years, especially publicly stating your intentions, so you have to wonder about the NHL‘s thought process. There also will be no suspension for Andrew Peters after he jumped Ottawa goaltender Ray Emery in his second fight of the brawl after Emery cleaned the clock of Buffalo ‘tender Martin Biron. Emery was even very kind to Biron. After landing a few on Biron and knocking him down, Emery let up, got to his feet so Biron and he could resume when Peters jumped into the fray.

Meanwhile, Sabres owner Tom Golisano has written a letter to the league which was released to the media Saturday, asking the NHL to review its policy of allowing hits to the head. Such a request rings opportunistic when it follows one of your team’s better players affected by such a hit. Such a request would actually progress if it were made by owners and GMs not following an incident, but in a proper forum where polarities on the issue are not charged by the rhetoric of the recent event. The fact there is no protection against these types of hits is the fault of Mr. Golisano and his management staff unless they have been raising and fighting for a change prior to today.

The Canadian media are running with this story, putting on the standard appalled face while Canadian hockey fans love it if fan comments on the TSN stories are any indication. In the US, there is barely a blip. Outside Buffalo, any place that showed the highlights of Thursday’s game would only reinforce their view of hockey as a violent sport with less respect for opponents than a bar fight.

The NHL has had plenty of opportunity to punish players for blindside hits to the head but has not. Many players’ careers have been shortened or affected by long recovery periods because of it. Even football, with much better head protection, has rules against hits to the head, while the NHL does not with flimsy helmets that are not done up right and come off in violent hits, leaving the head exposed to hit the ice. Retaliation outside of a normal fight also continues to be an option, which can only lead to more violent acts like stick swingings or attacks from behind. Incidents and reports that the league does not protect its players make great headlines, and those are the types of headlines the NHL should avoid.

5 Responses to “Ruff Fined $10,000 for Goon Squad Line”

  1. jim Says:

    Is there video of this somewhere on the net?

  2. jim Says:

    ahhh…. youtube… of course.

  3. Jon Says:

    Yes, this one is the longest and starts with the hit

    Ottawa-Buffalo Line Brawl Feb 22/2007

    I liked Emery’s post-game comments about Ruff throwing three meatballs in the ice (not included in above clip). Ottawa got their revenge last night, winning 6-5 with a couple fights between the meatballs.

  4. jim Says:

    My thoughts are…
    I think the hit was fine. The hit occurred immediately after Drury released the puck, and with the speed of the game a player cannot be expected to change his intentions in that short of a time frame. As can be seen on video, there was no elbow.
    After the hit, fight breaks out… fine. Part of the game, clean hit or not.
    Then Ruff goes all ballistic saying that there was an elbow. Referee was right on this one and the coach is wrong (if it’s the other way around the Ref is in deep trouble, but I guess a coach can spout off as much as he wants and be wrong, and never have to admit afterwards that he was wrong).
    Then Ruff wants revenge so he sticks out the ‘meatballs'(I believe the game was in Buffalo so he gets last change). Murray makes the mistake of not having any ‘meatballs’ on the ice, and in fact has the exact opposite of ‘meatballs’ on the ice. Murray still feels sheepish about this error.
    Whoever Buffalo’s center is goes after Spezza, and it’s on.
    Anyways, I guess the NHL doesn’t have objective rules about multiple fights. The goalies fighting is just silly (why is the cameraman paying so much attention to them?) and the Buffalo skater fighting the goalie is stupid and you would think something more severe should happen to him with it being a second fight. Again I’m surprised that there aren’t rules in place for this.
    Anyways, I guess all I’ve done is summed up the brawl. :(
    Ruff should be suspended, especially for making the ‘run ’em’ statement. He should also offer an apology because this all occurred because he thought he saw something that he didn’t see (yeah… like that’s gonna happen).
    Me thinks there’s more behind all of this. I don’t follow the NHL really, but one guess is that Ruff has been harping on his team to be tougher or something and this is how he chose to get more from his players.

    In the end, I personally don’t mind stuff like this. It’s entertaining to me. I really don’t care what American fans think about hockey, and I think the whole ‘hockey is too violent for Americans’ is a big joke (they’re some of the most violent people on earth). Hockey is a violent sport. You have to watch yourself, play smart, and not admire your passes. Guys don’t skate around trying to hit other players in the head… but it’s gonna happen sometimes. The games too fast and a sport where players hold back is hardly a sport at all.
    You’d think the NHLPA would be a little more concerned about head injuries (develope a better helmet, wear mouthguards properly). And if players don’t want to do their helmet straps up…. then I guess they don’t value their career very highly, so why should I?
    Maybe Ruff should direct his anger at Drury.

  5. Jon Says:

    Good summary Jim. I agree with much of what you said.

    Lifting an elbow after a hit is often pointed to as evidence of an elbow. It was clearly a clean hit. If the moaners want a penalty (read the comments to the youtube clip), what should it be? It is not charging, interference or roughing. There would have to be a new rule specifically against hits to the head which is very subjective as football has discovered.

    I’m not sure if Murray is sheepish about putting the Spezza line out or not.

    As for the NHL’s presence in America, they are trying to appeal to the NASCAR crowd, but it doesn’t matter, support is way down now compared to 10-15 years ago and they are more established in the southern US markets where they should be able to draw that NASCAR crowd they think is their market. Instead of speaking out of both sides of their mouths, loving the violence and downplaying it at the same time, they should run it like a normal league. Suspend people who should be suspended. The fact is people understand what hockey is down there, and playing it up as one thing or another won’t change its image.

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