A sports league doles out suspensions and fines for a variety of reasons, including the hope that losing game checks might deter future bad behavior.
When it comes to the fans, many want justice, and that’s where things can get a little fuzzier. It’s especially interesting to consider areas of subjectivity vs. rules that are as plain as day.
One can see shades of the frustration that comes from the over-the-glass delay of game penalty in the reactions to Detroit Red Wings winger Luke Witkowski getting an automatic 10-game suspension for returning to the ice during that wild brawl, egged on by Matthew Tkachuk of the Calgary Flames.
Red Wings head coach Jeff Blashill hit the nail on the head in that regard.
For Witkowski, it’s a painful lesson that he needs to find a happy medium between following the rules and engaging in “old-time hockey.”
“It’s unfortunate,” Witkowski said, via the Red Wings website. “Honestly, I didn’t know that was a rule. I obviously, I know now. I knew it was a rule you couldn’t jump the boards. It’s kind of a gray area with still being on the bench and the door being open. But lesson learned, I guess. Move on from here.”
The sad truth for Witkowski, 27, is that he won’t be eligible to move on in the form of a game until Dec. 9. And that’s assuming that he won’t get passed by as far as roster changes go.
Perhaps the silver lining is that other players might learn from Witkowski’s mistake and avoid drawing that automatic suspension. We’ve seen it before, such as with David Clarkson‘s delayed debut with the Toronto Maple Leafs, so there are some examples for NHL players willing to play attention.
Besides, it’s tough to miss a brawl like that, which you can watch one more time in the video above this post’s headline.
As far as Tkachuk goes, we’re still waiting to find out if he’ll sit a few games himself. He’s reportedly having a telephone hearing with the NHL to determine supplemental discipline.
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.