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A taunt too many: taking it back to peewee

June 7, 2011



Amid the hullaballoo of game three (mind you, the well-intentioned and important hullaballoo is one important fact that seems to have been overlooked: while the NHL is the highest league in the land, the latitude allowed for juvenile behavior, taunting and bad language is perhaps the widest in the world. Of course, neither team is Vityaz of the KHL. There’s law and there’s order. But it’s also curious that if any youth player attempted a meager half of what Burrows, Recchi, Lucic, Kesler et al. have in the last three games, they would have received the boot immediately and probably have been driven home by their parents. Of course, these parents may have put up a fight, but that’s a topic for a different day.

What remains clear is this: the behavior, or rather “garbage” as NHL VP Mike Murphy put it so eloquently this afternoon, of this Finals, has got to end somewhere. It’s entertaining. I will grant it that. As I said, it’s not dramatic, it’s theatric. But what’s interesting is the approach both coaches and organizations are taking. Yes, players bear personal responsibility. They are accountable for everything they do on the ice. That said, messages are sent from above and a coach ultimately determines a player’s playing time…or bench time.

Julien v. Vigneault. Two men whose career paths are intertwined. Two men who now find themselves butting heads on the grandest stage of all.

To paraphrase their remarks in the last 24 hours:

Julien: I told my guys to ‘knock it off.’ I don’t want us playing that kind of hockey. And they know that. So they heard from me. We don’t play that way.

Vigneault: Emotions run high. We need to focus on the game.

Okay, hmm, haven’t heard a lot from him on the issue of rough stuff between the whistles and scrums and the sort. Interesting. Perhaps, though, one shouldn’t be surprised. He’s got bigger fish to fry, with his President’s Trophy-winning team losing by a margin of seven goals. And the suspension of one of his d-men. Yes, the taunting and teasing and diving and fingers shoved before mouthes probably isn’t where his head is at when he falls to sleep at night.

According to, said succinctly by the man back in the action:

“We’ve addressed that,” said Manny Malhotra, matter-of-factly.

“We’re not going to feed the animosity after whistles, we’re not going to gain anything from it and obviously the refs have started to crack down on the nonsense after the whistles. Our focus again is playing between the whistles.”

Still, doesn’t sound like discipline has been of utmost concern. Even Recchi in last night’s press conference said flatly “yeah, ahaha, coach wasn’t happy with me at all. He really was upset. I gotta calm myself down.” The message was sent from Julien: no more. Still, Julien has the liberty after a win like that to say such things. He has the upper-hand. Oh, and there’s that tiny fact about the lethality of the Canucks’ power-play: he doesn’t want his Bruins unleashing that.

Fair enough. But it’s still curious that the two coaches aren’t in the same page, and neither are their teams. Yes, in interviews they talk about focus. But the Bruins (excuse the fingers from last night) seem to be walking the walk more than the Canucks.

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