This fracas led to P.K. Subban (bottom) being targeted by a remark that was perceived as racist by the referee who heard it. (Doug Murray/Reuters)
By Stu Hackel
The NHL suspended Florida forward Krys Barch for the game the Panthers played Thursday night against the Rangers — and, yes, I am very weary of writing about suspensions, but this one is a bit different.
The reason for the one-gamer was Barch’s use of “inappropriate language” during his team’s game against Montreal in a now-traditional New Year’s Eve afternoon contest. It was an unusual transgression and the whole incident remains murky, which is too bad, because the NHL could have turned it into a valuable, teachable moment or clearly exonerated a player who was wrongly accused of making a racist remark.
Let’s briefly run through the event as best we can. With 1.2 seconds left in a first period that had gotten feisty, there was a face-off in the Florida zone to the right of goalie Jose Theodore. The puck was dropped and Habs defenseman P.K. Subban, who had lined up in the left face-off circle, charged the net in hope of creating some havoc, if not to knock the puck past Theodore.
The puck went harmlessly in another direction, however, and Subban ended up bumping with Panthers defenseman Erik Gudbranson at the top of the crease. The buzzer sounded, Gudbranson slashed at Subban’s stick, and Subban shoved him with a forearm. Gudbranson then threw his arm around Subban’s neck and wrestled him to his knees as players from both teams, and the linesmen, began to converge.