Flyers forward Danny Briere was issued a three-game suspension from the NHL due to an altercation that occurred in a game against the Islanders this past Saturday. It’s been questioned as to whether or not the suspension was warranted or another example of the league targeting the Flyers.
In the last minute of an emotional 6-1 rout of the Islanders, Briere setup to take the faceoff against Frans Nielsen in the Isles zone. Before the puck-drop, Nielsen leaned into Briere for a few words.
After winning the faceoff, Briere swung his stick over the head of Nielsen grazing his helmet. Flyers agitator Dan Carcillo steam-rolled Nielsen afterwards causing him to crumple to the ice.
“After what he said on the faceoff, all I was thinking was I got to protect myself after what happened to [Andrej] Meszaros (and) what happened with Trevor Gilles on [Braydon] Coburn. I said, ‘I got to protect myself’, and if you see the faceoff before, he gets me in a headlock and punches me behind the head,” Briere said.
Afterwards, Briere skated behind the net where Isles goalie Rick DiPietro plunged his goal-stick into Briere’s mid-section. Carcillo skated to his teammate’s defense, and DiPietro dropped his gloves in an attempt to fight the Flyers agitator. Wisely, the linesman and Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger stepped in to keep them from getting at one another.
Nielsen jumped up from playing dead, and joined the fray, as his teammates were shorthanded from killing off a 5-on-3 penalty. This was due to Gillies receiving six minutes in penalties for attacking Coburn and punching Briere. Shortly after, the Isles received a bench minor for verbally abusing the referee.
After the smoke cleared, Nielsen and Carcillo each received a 10:00 misconduct penalty, while DiPietro got a minor penalty for leaving his crease, and Briere received a 5:00 major for a cross-check and a 10:00 misconduct.
Two days later, there were no other suspensions handed out besides the three games to Briere. It seemed odd that a hit that barely grazed a player should warrant a suspension of such a length of time when Niklas Hjalmarsson flattened Jason Pominville, who sustained a concussion in the blind-sided hit, and only received two games.
The league’s explaination is that Briere is a repeat offender and he had the intent to injure. Apparently, the intent to injure outweighs actually injuring someone, especially if it’s in defense.
“There are guys whose careers are in danger for bad hits to the head,” noted Briere. “[Niklas] Hjalmarsson gets two games, and we don’t even know what is going to happen to [Jason] Pominville. Only two games for that. And then you have [Matt] Cooke on [Marc] Savard. Savard has already lost a big amount of time. That’s why I was shocked that it was more than a game.”
Earlier in Saturday’s game with the Islanders, a blind-sided hit by Isles forward Trent Hunter sent Meszaros head first into the boards. Meszaros left the game and was later diagnosed with a slight concussion. Hunter was given a 5:00 boarding major but was not suspended for his actions.
The referees clearly saw Nielsen’s threats as serious enough to give him a 10:00 misconduct, so why did his threat fall short of the gestured threat offered by Nick Boynton that garnered a one-game suspension?
The Flyers have always been under the looking-glass of the league ever since the seventies, when they were known as the Broad Street Bullies.
Unfortunately, that stigma has remained with them, and the Flyers seem to always have a target on their backs for the league attempting to make a point.
“I explained the situation,” said Briere on the call with Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations for the NHL Colin Campbell. “I explained that he challenged me, and that I wanted to defend myself, protect myself. I told him that I understood that my stick shouldn’t have been up there. But honestly, I don’t think that… [the explanation] didn’t amount to anything. I think his mind was made up before he rang, because anything I said was, obviously, not taken into consideration.”
There were a total of 120 penalty minutes awarded in Saturday’s game—73 minutes vof the Isles and 47 minutes vof the Flyers. The Islanders were clearly frustrated. DiPietro left his crease twice to get a piece of someone. They were way out of hand in a game that had gotten away from them, and it’s hard to blame them. But if they’re going to play like that, they need to expect the Flyers to defend themselves.
The two teams meet in Long Island for the rematch on Saturday. Although Briere won’t be there, it should prove to be an exciting night.