Despite James Wisniewski's Childish Act, NHL Went Too Far in Two-Game Ban
What Wisniewski did was wrong. No one, so far not even anyone associated with the Islanders, has tried to condone his action. It was awkward and embarrassing. But there was something innocent about Wisniewski's terrible lapse of judgment.
Not for a moment did I believe it was premeditated. Not for a moment did the first-year Islander think he would take the majority of the North American headlines away from his team's uplifting, come-from-behind 6-4 win over the rival Rangers. Not for a moment did Wisniewski think about the potential of embarrassment for his team, his league or -- as a husband of three months -- himself.
No, he didn't think. That's why, as unseemly as the moment was, he deserves a pass. For those few seconds in the heat of battle against one of the game's most notorious characters, James Wisniewski might have thought he was playing against the rest of the 15-year-olds at 6:00 am in Michigan. He might have forgotten that he wasn't knocking the puck around with his buddies on the available ice at midnight. Wisniewski lost his way, but it was only because his intensity blurred the thought of where he was.
The NHL had to do something. If Colin Campbell, the league's hilariously inconsistent czar of supplementary discipline, wanted to give him a pass, Gary Bettman surely would have gotten involved. Bettman happened to be at the Islanders-Rangers matinee on Monday at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. If the commissioner didn't have a full grasp of what transpired during the first period, he did when his staffers told him the lowlight was played all night on networks where they talk a lot of hockey -- and plenty more where they rarely do.
So one game would have been plenty. Nick Boynton of the Chicago Blackhawks received a one-game suspension for a throat-slash gesture during a preseason game. Boynton's action was wrong and painfully outdated. Wisniewski's was wrong and hopefully will never be seen again on an NHL rink. Why would the Islander get twice the punishment as Boynton for an inappropriate gesture? What's Campbell's explanation for this one? Wisniewski's eight-game suspension for running Brent Seabrook last season should be irrelevant.
Oh well, don't worry about Wisniewski. He'll pay almost $80,000 for his mistake and sit out a pair of tough road games for the Islanders in Washington and Pittsburgh. But in Islanders Country, he is an overnight sensation. When he returns to the lineup on Saturday for a home game against Colorado, he'll get a hero's welcome.
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