As I type this, things are (hopefully!) cooling down between Dallas Stars’ Eric Nystrom and… a 16 yr old girl? Before you jump to conclusions…
let’s take this back to what caused this conversation. In Wednesday’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Nystrom laid a questionable hit on Pittsburgh defenseman Kris Letang that ultimate resulted in a 2 minute penalty on Nystrom and Letang leaving the game thereafter. Letang is currently listed day-to-day with concussion-like symptoms. Here’s the hit:
Now, you’re free to feel how you would like about this hit. I personally sat in front of the tv, hand over mouth, yelling, “NO NO NO NO NO NO NO!” as I watched Letang writhing on the ice. I also followed that up with, “Oh lord, Ny, why?!” as I have seen this guy go through a lot this year. No one would debate that Nystrom has had quite a rough season. To really understand, we need to go back to the preseason.
On September 30, 2011, Nystrom, then a Minnesota Wild, and Edmonton Oilers’ prospect Taylor Fedun went after a puck for an icing call and in the process Nystrom tripped Fedun skates first into the boards. Fedun suffered a complex fracture to his right femur which ended his chances of making the Oilers’ roster this season. Nystrom apologized and even visited Fedun in the hospital, knowing he possibly ended this young talent’s hockey career. Icing has long been debated as a dangerous aspect of the sport that needs revision. Nystrom and Fedun unfortunately lived out the hazard of racing for the puck. In response to this accident, many hockey fans responded unfavorably. Puck Daddy’s article on the incident will give you an idea of the heinous words people had for Nystrom. E Ny was clearly upset about the incident and made that clear on his Twitter account. Now fast forward to the Letang incident.
Other than the 2 minute roughing call Nystrom received in-game, he received no further penalty for the hit. As a result, fans lashed out at Nystrom yet again. Yet MORE comments via Twitter from the kind-hearted hockey fans of the world (note: sarcasm). So finally, after being berated for days, weeks, months, Nystrom appeared to have had enough. This is “somewhat” how the conversation went. Due to the inconsistency of the thread, some comments may be out of order but you get the gist:
I cannot speak for either party but what I can say is we, as fans, are allowed our opinions, however, opinions are all they are and should be. I have the personal m.o. of “If I’m not lacing ’em up, I have no right to pretend like I do.” I am a hockey fan. I do not play the game. I cannot, under any circumstances, publicly criticize a player for his actions, especially in the case of injuring other players. I do not know the plays they practice. I do not know the sheer physics of how to complete certain maneuvers on the ice. I cannot say what my split second decisions would be if I was in their positions.
Ultimately, it is a dangerous game. Many variables enter into the situations we deem fair and unfair. The players positions, skating speeds, ice quality, stick placement, players’ locations on the ice, and mental focus are just some of the factors that cause a team to rise to the occasion or a player to, literally, fall. I surmise that most hockey players understand this concept because they are least likely to lash back at one another in cases such as this but when they do…
hockey is the perfect sport. It is one of few sports that allows justice to be served not only on a judicial level, but physical as well. Players notoriously enter into fisticuffs with offending players to avenge teammates’ disputes. If a player is injured, his teammates step up and fight in his place if he is unable to drop the gloves. In fact, Nystrom was roughed by Penguins players following Letang’s removal from the game. Hockey is a self-justifying game. However, what happens on the ice stays there and when the equipment comes off, the animosity peels away as well until the teams meet again. When the teams face off again, it is the players themselves who decide if retribution is necessary and if not, the incident is buried and the game goes on. At no point are fans a part of this decision or should they dish out justice. This is not their battle to fight.
Sometimes, I think fans forget that.