In a Columbus-Day moment of intensity, New York Islanders’ defenceman James Wisniewski decided it would be OK to make an unbelievably obscene and inappropriate gesture to pesky Rangers’ forward Sean Avery.
I’m not going to specify what the gesture was, and I haven’t posted a video of it here (you can get that yourself off YouTube). The reason I haven’t done those things is because Wisniewski’s actions are not appropriate for this website. And they are not appropriate for the NHL arena, either. There is absolutely no excuse for what Wisniewski did – and it should be dealt with severely by the NHL.
For some reason, athletes today seem to think it’s fine to do whatever pops into their mind during the course of a game. Hitting a defenceless or prone opponent happens far too frequently. Just ask Jason Pominville how he enjoyed yesterday’s encounter with Nik Hjalmarsson. But here’s what’s really bothering me. Since the Wisniewski/Avery incident yesterday, I have heard way too many members of the media explaining Wisniewski’s actions as less offensive because they happened after the whistle – outside the playing of the game. That’s crazy!
When an NHL player steps in an arena, anywhere, he is representing the league. Period. There is no discussion. And, on the ice, from the opening whistle to the final buzzer, that representation is magnified. The NHL cannot have its representatives doing things like Wisniewski did yesterday. What if you had been at that Islanders’ game with your 10-year old son or daughter? What about with your grandmother? NHL fans should not have to witness a purposeful action from the ice surface that will make them feel uncomfortable.
It’s totally ironic that Wisniewski’s gesture was aimed at NHL bad boy Sean Avery. Avery, himself, was suspended in December 2008 for making derogatory comments about then-Flames’ defenceman Dion Phaneuf and his girlfriend, Elisha Cuthbert. Avery was representing the league by doing an interview. He was suspended. He should have been suspended.
In today’s game, NHL players often are allowed to go over the line. I say “allowed” because the NHL could stop it instantly if it wanted to stop it. Players have been allowed to use profanity on the ice, toward the opposition and toward officials, forever. Years ago, I saw an un-aired videotape of players wearing microphones in an NHL game. It made me sick to my stomach. The league has done little to abate that practice. Now, Wisniewski has taken that disgusting behaviour to a new level.
If the NHL does not act, and act strongly, it will simply be another escalated step toward the inappropriate way players deal with opponents. Don Cherry often says that, years ago, players respected opponents. Treated them the way they should be treated.
Sorry, Don, but those days are now long gone…and I don’t like it either.