The Washington Capitals were just engaging in “gamesmanship” when they publicly complained about Nicklas Backstrom’s suspension, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said today at an Associated Press Sports Editors meeting.
Bettman said Friday that criticism of the league’s disciplinary decisions as inconsistent simply reflected clubs disliking rulings that hurt them. He used the one-game suspension of Washington center Nicklas Backstrom for an illegal cross-check as an example. Bettman says of the Capitals’ disagreement: “That doesn’t mean anything; they didn’t like it.”
Soon after Backstrom was suspended a game for cross-checking Boston’s Rich Peverley in the face, the Caps issued the following statement on their website:
We disagree with the NHL’s decision to suspend Nicklas Backstrom.
This has been a competitive and physical series, and we do not understand why a suspension was imposed in this case while other incidents in this series have not been reviewed.
And frankly, there was some gamesmanship behind the Caps’ complaint, which was essentially a wordier way of telling the league to call it both ways. Then, should a questionable offense be committed against one of their players, they’d have something to stand on.
The risk for Bettman is that he appears dismissive of all complaints relating to supplementary discipline and on-ice violence, including ones from media and fans.
We’d be curious to hear what else he said today, because we assume he didn’t just accuse teams of gamesmanship and peace out.