Monday, May 11, 2009

Walker fined, not suspended

Normally, I am not a fan of the NHL's Justice System, but they are getting it right more often than they are wrong in these playoffs.

Scott Walker was fined $2,500 dollars by the league, but not suspended, as a result of his punch on Aaron Ward in game 5 between the Carolina Hurricanes and Boston Bruins.

It's almost the right call. The right call would have been nothing more than what he received from the on-ice officials, but I understand why they are hitting him in the wallet.

The NHL is trying to market their game to become relevant in the sports landscape in the USA. Those that have never played the game are the ones calling for Walker to be suspended, banished, etc. Those that know the game are saying what I am saying.

For the record, when one player (Ward), squares off with an opponent (Walker) and the duo decides they are going to do more than stare at each other (read, gonna fight), then it's on. If Ward was trying to goad Walker into a penalty, then Ward is just dumb. The Bruins were well in control of the game, it was late in the 3rd, and Carolina was simply not coming back from that deficit, based on how well the Bruins played. And they did play well.

Ward (a former Hurricane, which makes this especially tough to write), should simply know better. He's a veteran guy. He knew his team had a big lead at the time, and giving Walker the hairy eyeball wasn't going to accomplish anything short of a glove-dropper. The fact that Ward stood there, chirping at Walker and not getting ready to go is his own fault.

Yeah, I know I sound like a barbarian here, but it's the true essence of playoff hockey. I would rather see two players drop the mitts and duke it out, rather than see someone take a stick to someone's head. That's the reason fighting has endured in the game of hockey, in spite of some efforts to have it removed. In this case, Ward likely didn't think Walker would come after him, and wasn't ready for the right hand that knocked him down.

Watch the replay of the instance again (available on youtube), and you will see Ward actually engaged another Hurricanes player (I want to say Matt Cullen, but I can't really tell), while the puck was moving along the side boards. Walker came to his teammates defense, and Ward squared off with him, while keeping his gloves on. This sort of thing happens in hockey all the time.

The NHL's fine of Walker is a PR move, and a PR move only. Had it truly been a sucker punch, this would have been worse for Walker. As it is, his teammates will have to pick up the tab for a dinner this week. They'll have time, considering they should eliminate the Bruins in game 6.

Mike Solarte

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