Saturday, December 23, 2006

Nichol, Spacek, Collins, and Anthony

Everyone's heard about the NBA brawl that happened last weekend in New York, right? Players fighting, a cheap shot by Carmelo Anthony on Collins, and a resulting 15 game suspension. I watch PTI religiously for some reason, even though they rarely talk about hockey. They spent a good portion of Monday's show talking about the brawl. And inevitably, the racial component comes up. Mike Wilbon made the good point that there have been NBA fights since the 50's, and no one complained then about the violence in the sport, and the "thuggish" behavior. No argument here. He also mentioned that the fighting is worse in hockey and football, and no one complains about that. I have a bit of an issue with that, but read on.

So I wouldn't even be blogging about this if there wasn't a similar incident in the NHL just a few days ago. Scott Nichol of the Preds gets driven into the net by Joseph Spacek of the Sabres, the net comes off it's moorings and Nichol goes down. With Spacek's back to him, Nichol drops one glove, comes up behind him, and hits him in the jaw from behind. Spacek goes down like a sack of bricks, but has no long term injury. Nichol gets 9 games for the cheap shot.

This is patently outrageous. If you saw the Bertuzzi hit on Steve Moore a couple of years ago and the Nichol hit side by side, without knowing the aftermath of the hits, you would think the Nichol hit was much much worse. Bertuzzi had his glove on when he hit Moore, and the hit came partially to his helmet. Nichol hit Spacek flush in the face with his fist. The only reason Nichol got only 9 games is because Spacek wasn't hurt.

Maybe Spacek's drive of Nichol into the post was cheap. I doubt it. I've watched it a few times, and I think if Nichol wanted to bail out on the play, he could have easily avoided the post. Nichol was ahead of Spacek, and he wasn't being held, although his stick was tied up. Hockey is full of plays like this- two players struggling against each other, and someone gets rammed into something or someone.

The reason hockey isn't "worse" in the fighting department than the NBA is because there a set of written and unwritten rules about it. If Nichol turned Spacek around, dropped the gloves, and went after him, then it's a fair fight. No problem. The problem with the NBA is no one knows how to fight worth a damn, and there all this crap with players swinging wildly, refs not knowing what to do, people falling into the stands, etc. Carmelo's punch was about as cheap as Nichol's but he's a little punkass. He threw the shot at an unsuspecting Collins, then ran away. Classy. Nichol at least kept going while all the Sabres piled on.

But Nichol should have gotten 25 games. It actually worse when stuff like this happens in hockey, precisely because there's a semi-legal way for these conflicts to be resolved. If Spacek refuses to fight in that situation, then he gets hit at every possible opportunity for the rest of the game, and maybe beyond. He puts his head down in the neutral zone, and he'll wish he fought Nichol.

1 comment:

Jeremy said...

The one thing you failed to mention about the Bertuzzi-Moore incident is that is was retaliation. Some would argue pre-meditated. And that was one of the driving factors in Todd's suspension. Nichol's actions were heat-of-the-moment (though I agree with you that he created the moment by throwing himself into the net).
Sucker-punching should get you 9 games in the NHL, and 15 in the NBA. But I wonder if the 15 was softer because it was a star.