NHL orders players to clam up
Colin Campbell, the chief disciplinarian for the National Hockey League, issued a reminder Tuesday for players to follow the rules when it comes to trash talk.
CALGARY — Colin Campbell, the chief disciplinarian for the National Hockey League, issued a reminder Tuesday for players to follow the rules when it comes to trash talk.
Or, in other words, shut up, put a hockey sock in it or risk a penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct.
If the participants follow orders, the on-ice volume should dip dramatically in the Western Conference quarter-final between the Chicago Blackhawks and Calgary Flames.
“They want to limit the talking,” said Adam Burish, one of the chief orators for the Blackhawks. “I don’t know if we hurt their feelings or what it might have been.
“I guess they don’t like that we’re talking to them on the ice.”
Oh they’re talking all right.
From the opening faceoff to the final horn, Burish and rookie Kris Versteeg have made a point of hurling insults at the opposition.
Their favourite target? Calgary captain Jarome Iginla, although any player with a flaming ‘C’ on his chest will do.
“It’s the same stuff that people say to me,” Burish said. “ ‘You suck. You’re terrible. I’m going to kill you. I’m going to hurt you. I’m going to beat you up.’
“I hear that every game. It’s nothing that bothers me.”
Burish predicts the Campbell reminder might result in a slight drop in the verbal attacks.
But a complete eradication of trash talk? In the post-season?
That, Burish said, is impossible.
“It’s not going to stop in a playoff series,” he said. “I mean, you watch on TV. Everybody is talking. Everybody is trying to get that extra edge on a guy. You find something that bothers a guy out there.
“I always say it’s like third grade. When you go into third grade, and somebody makes fun of someone, and the kid gets mad, then everybody keeps saying it to him. Once you feel like you have an edge on someone, you go right back at him.”
The Campbell reminder also warned players to stick to the rules when it comes to the extracurricular activity after the play.
In the eyes of the Hawks, the Flames are guilty on that count.
“If they want us to punch us after the whistle, we’re going to continue to go to the net,” Burish said. “We can stand there and they can punch us. We’ve seen it all series. We’ve got guys who are going to continue to go to the net. If they want to punch us, they can punch us.”
Craig Conroy said the Flames are simply protecting goalie Miikka Kiprusoff from undo bodily harm.
Sinister intentions? Not a chance, said the Calgary veteran.
“It’s playoff hockey,” Conroy said. “We’ve got to try and keep them away from Kipper after the whistle. It seemed in the first couple of games, they were crashing around the net. We’re doing our best to keep them away. And vica-versa, they’re trying go do the same thing.
I don’t think there are that many cheapshots going on out there. It’s just been clean, hard-hitting and good hockey.”
The rampant on-ice taunting is hardly limited to the Calgary-Chicago series.
“Montreal and Boston, if you watch their series, they haven’t stopped trash talking the whole time, either,” Versteeg said. “It’s hockey. That’s how hockey is played. . . . And that’s how hockey always will be played.”
Over in the Vancouver-St. Louis series, fresh video of Ryan Kesler and Alex Burrows, of the Vancouver Canucks, taunting David Backes, of the St. Louis Blues, can be found on YouTube.
“Tell Kelly I said hi,” Kesler says.
“Hey, Kelly’s a great gal,” Burrows adds.
Backes is married to a woman named Kelly.
“She’s stronger than I am and she can take it if they want to give her any grief,” Backes told reporters in Vancouver. “If they want to keep giving it to me, she’s pretty attractive and I’m pretty proud of what I landed. I’m over-achieving and I’m not going to deny that.”
In truth, Conroy said, most of the on-ice verbiage is amusing, not offensive.
“It’s fun,” he said. “I listen to it, and some of it makes me laugh. But it’s not over the line. They’re not crossing the line — either team. You know that both teams want to win.”
Is anything off limits?
“There’s nothing racial going on or anything like that,” he said. “That’s where guys get suspended. I don’t see anyone doing anything like that on either team.
“It’s been clean. It’s just going back and forth. It’s after every whistle, so I think that’s why you guys recognize it so much.”
Game 4 goes Wednesday between the Blackhawks and Flames. The Hawks lead the best-of-seven series 2-1.