NHL won’t punish Wayne Simmonds for alleged homophobic comment

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No doubt about it, Philadelphia Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds is experiencing a crazy week – even if he downplayed each well-publicized incident. One thing that won’t make things a little bit nuttier is a suspension or fine, though. The Canadian Press reports that Simmonds won’t face discipline for allegedly uttering a homophobic remark toward New York Rangers pest Sean Avery.

Shortly after the game, Simmonds told reporters that he didn’t remember what he said – only that “language was exchanged.” On the other hand, Avery confirmed the rumors, which were originally based on a video that convinced many lip-reading hockey fans that Simmonds was guilty of such trash talk. Earlier today, Simmonds denied that he made the remark.

It might seem ridiculous to some that such an incident generated suspension debate, but there are examples of the league handing out harsh verdicts for things players say (or gestures they make) rather than hits they deliver. As Joe pointed out earlier today, the NBA also made headlines when they fined Kobe Bryant a whopping $100,000 grand when a microphone caught the Los Angeles Lakers star making a homophobic slur.

The NHL probably made the right move

As revolting as trash talk can be – whether the insults revolve around race, sexual preference or other touchy social issues – it’s hard to blame the NHL for not taking action. Even if you believe in the power of lip reading, the league might have trouble suspending Simmonds based on limited evidence. Generally speaking, I think it’s probably unreasonable for a league to police the unsettling words that players use against each other when tempers flare.

Simmonds won’t get punished in a formal way, but it’s possible that he’ll lose face in the court of public opinion. If nothing else, this should be a lesson to any player talking smack: remember that microphones and cameras are all over the place. (And they’re only going to become more prevalent as technology improves.)

Safer alternatives for belittling opponents

With that in mind, players should stick to friendlier forms of mockery, such as:

  • Someone’s questionable hair style.
  • A person’s inability to grow a beard/let go of a not-even-ironic mustache.
  • Perhaps mocking that person’s former junior or college hockey program would be a more family-friendly way to go?
  • If you want to get really specific, you can even critique a player’s fashion sense. (Avery would approve.)

Sure, making fun of a player for going bald, having a mullet or wearing socks with sandals isn’t going to enrage them to the point of taking a bad penalty in most cases, but it’s better than losing face and encouraging activist groups to speak out against you.* (Although Bobby Hull might disagree with that general point.)

From my perspective, it’s a relief that this didn’t result in a formal penalty, even if it’s a very disappointing situation. What do you think about the lack of punishment? Should he sit out a game or more? Would the league be justified in at least giving him the CBA maximum fine of $2,500 for the incident? Let us know in the comments.

* – On the bright side, PETA wasn’t involved.

Andrew Hammond to start Game 5 for Avalanche

AP
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When the Colorado Avalanche hit the ice in Nashville on Friday night they will be facing elimination. They will also need to rely on their third-string goalie to help get them a win if they are going to extend their season.

The team announced on Thursday that Andrew Hammond will be getting the start, replacing Jonathan Bernier who had to leave Wednesday’s game after two periods with a lower body injury. Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said Bernier’s injury has been a nagging one and that he could still be available off the bench on Friday if needed.

The Avalanche had been starting Bernier because their regular starter, Semyon Varlamov, is out for the remainder of the season due to a lower body injury of his own.

Obviously, this puts the Avalanche in a pretty tough spot. Not only because they have to go on the road against the Presidents’ Trophy winning Predators, but also because they have to turn to a goalie that, including Wednesday’s brief relief appearance, has appeared in just eight NHL games over the past two years. He has faced only 127 shots in those appearances and managed only an .874 save percentage.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

 Hammond’s career has been a fascinating one to this point.

Late in the 2014-15 season he came out of nowhere as a 25-year-old rookie to lead the Ottawa Senators on an improbable late season run (where Hammond put together a 20-1-2 record) to qualify for the playoffs. Nicknamed “the Hamburglar,” his initial run in Ottawa was highlighted by fans throwing hamburgers on the ice to celebrate his wins.  That run earned him a contract extension with the Senators and a bunch of free hamburgers from McDonalds. It was a crazy year.

After that, though, injuries and a decline in his production have limited him to just a handful of appearances in the NHL.

The Avalanche acquired him from the Senators earlier this season as part of the Matt Duchene trade.

Now he has to jump into the crease in an elimination game.

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Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Predators’ Ryan Hartman to have hearing after illegal check to the head

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Ryan Hartman had a tough night at the office on Wednesday night and will have to answer to the NHL’s Department of Player Safety because of it.

Hartman’s hearing stems from a charging penalty he was assessed after lining up Colorado Avalanche forward Carl Soderberg‘s head with his shoulder at the 4:42 mark of the third period.

Soderberg was forced to leave the game after the play.

Earlier in the game, Hartman tried to line up Sven Andrighetto from a mile out in the second period but missed, prompting the latter to come and give Hartman some business, which included a stick below the belt to Hartman.

The Predators took Game 4 by a 3-2 margin, holding off a third-period comeback attempt from the Avalanche to take a 3-1 series lead.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Seinfeld’s Puddy attends Devils game to ‘support the team’

NJ Devils on Twitter
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The man known affectionately as Puddy (aka actor Patrick Warburton) was in New Jersey last night trying to rile up the Devils prior to Game 4 against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

You’ll remember Puddy, the face-painted Devils fan from the hit TV show Seinfeld, for such lines as, ‘We’re the Devils… The Devils’ and ‘Don’t mess with the Devils. We can beat anybody.’

That’s pretty much it, but he didn’t need to say much else to become an instant cult classic among Devils fans.

Warburton resurrected the character on Wednesdat night, doing his best to get the Devils and their fans amped up prior to the game.

Unfortunately for New Jersey, the tactic didn’t pay off as the Lightning took a 3-1 series lead on the back of a 3-1 win.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

PHT Morning Skate: Ducks wake-up call; Crosby passes Lemieux

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.
• For Ducks, getting swept should be a wake-up call (Los Angeles Times)

• Takeaways: an unlikely hero emerges as Sharks sweep Ducks (San Jose Mercury News)

Sidney Crosby passes Mario Lemieux for Penguins’ playoff points lead (USA Today)

• The Penguins are still too much for the Flyers (SB Nation)

• Hey, Saint Patrick. It’s a sin you missed how Avs refused to quit in 3-2 loss against Nashville. (Denver Post)

• In defying odds, Golden Knights’ success is not so good for sports books (USA Today)

Marc-Andre Fleury‘s ex-teammates with Penguins happy for his success in playoffs (NHL.com)

• Bodog: Golden Knights are Cup favourites (TSN.ca)

• Foligno brothers savouring first simultaneous NHL post-season (Toronto Star)

Blake Wheeler‘s path to being an elite player in the NHL took a winding road (Winnipeg Sun)

• How a financial advisor became the NHL’s only active black official (Sportsnet)

• Bill Peters has the inside track in Calgary, but there’s a lot of local blood to consider (The Hockey News)

• Von Miller just discovered hockey and he is WAY into it (The Loop)

• Humboldt Broncos tribute concert aims to bring in NHL players, alumni (Sportsnet)

• Town puts ‘giant hockey stick on our porch’ in Humboldt tribute (CBC)

• The case for each Vezina Trophy finalist — and a few snubs (The Hockey News)

• Why the Stanley Cup gets names removed every 13 years (Sportsnet)

• Up top, watch how the Penguins are coming alive in the postseason and the energy being displayed by Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin should be worrying their opponents.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck