The NHL has fined Boston Bruins defenceman Andrew Ference US$2,500 for making an obscene gesture. Why am I not surprised that he got off that easily?
Ference should have known better and who really buys his equipment malfunction explanation after he gave Montreal Canadiens' fans and a North American televison audience the 1 finger salute? "The coach showed it to me and it looks terrible, but that's not my style." said Ference after game 4 on Thursday. Minutes later, "I haven't even had a chance to talk to Andrew....." said head coach Claude Julien. Way to be on the same page in the cover-up, but don't worry, the guys in Toronto bought it after their "investigation" of the facts
Ference, Boston's player representative, cut his club's deficit to 1 goal in the second period of its comeback victory, 5-4 in overtime at the Bell Centre. He decided to set a fine example for the kids by celebrating classlessly. Ference's backhanded attempt at an apology (listen to track 1) just doesn't cut it and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman should have slapped him with more than a fine. Bettman needed to step up and do the right thing for the NHL's brand.
"Yeah I talked with Murph, Mike Murphy this morning...." said Ference after the ruling. Isn't it nice to know that he can refer to the guy handing out "the punishment" by his nickname. Murphy handed down the decision, because Colin Campbell's son Gregory plays for the Bruins, not to mention that he has enough on his plate right now. He's busy handing out insufficient suspensions or none at all for head shots, which continue to plague hockey this post-season. The optics for the NHL just keep looking better by the day, don't they?
Montreal defenceman James Wisniewski was suspended 2 games for his lewd gesture at the New York Rangers' Sean Avery, while Wisniewski was playing for the New York Islanders earlier this season. Fans, including many parents, weren't too thrilled with trying to explain away what "Wiz" was simulating.
As for Ference, weren't you happy to answer why did he do that daddy (or mommy)? Thank you to the NHL for encouraging Ference, and others from this point on, to open the lines of communication about self-gratification for a mere $2500.
With the NHL's playoff discount, then Ference's you're #1 move warranted a 1-game suspension plus a $2500 fine and don't give me the argument: "it's not as graphic as what Wisniewski did."
Manchester United's Wayne Rooney was recently suspended 2 games for dropping an F-bomb at a camera after he scored a goal. Still need a few more reasons why anybody, who pulls what Ference did, should be suspended "in the best interests of the game."
Is a player disrespecting an opponent more worthy of a suspension than a player showing fans where they can go? They simply line the owners pockets and pay the players' salaries.
The league has not tolerated players laying a finger on fans, nor should it have put up with Ference, or any player, giving them the finger. Bettman has now allowed a precedent that fans can be shown the finger and disrespected anytime or anywhere or is it only in the playoffs? This was a no-brainer for the commissioner, no matter what Bruins' owner Jeremy Jacobs may have tried to tell him to downplay the bush-league and crude gesture by one of his veterans.
Another Bruins' veteran, forward Shawn Thornton, also creatively explained (listen to track 2) that "sometimes your glove gets stuck, whatever." Yeah, whatever it takes to get Ference off the hook. The old equipment malfunction gets you every time.
Come on. Do Ference and Thornton really think they're fooling anybody, including some in the Boston media? Like Chara on Pacioretty, this isn't a Montreal vs Boston issue (I picked the Bruins to win this series). It could have happened between Nashville and Anaheim for all I care. This is about the integrity of the game, which at last check wasn't supposed to be a dog and pony show like the WWE or the UFC.
Ference is not the reason the Habs let the lead get away 3 times to allow the Bruins to even the series at 2 games apiece with game 5 set to go in Boston after tomorrow's Habs Show at 5 p.m. on CJAD 800 and CJAD.COM; however, he should not have the privilege of playing in game 5. Wearing an NHL uniform is not a right, it is a privilege. Isn't it?
If the Canadiens want to win the game and this series, they have bigger fish to fry than the issue that Ference has created. He's not going to be the difference maker, but Bettman could have made a difference by doing the right thing for the youngest generation of fans and their parents.