While the dust has seemed to settle around Ottawa Senators’ forward Ridly Grieg and audition for the NHL All-Star Game hardest-shot competition, it isn’t the same for the other player facing an in-person hearing. Toronto Maple Leafs star defenseman Morgan Reilly faces an in-person hearing for a high cross-check on the Senators forward, leaving many fans divided on the subject.
Grieg wanted to show Reilly and the Leafs what the hardest shot competition was missing, Reilly very much despised that antic. Most players are aware of the code, and the code was necessary in this case, but a cross-check into the face and neck area is not a part of the code. Reilly didn’t like the play, he reacted in the heat of the moment and after losing to the Senators, again.
I want to make one thing clear, emotions don’t negate a player who does dirty things, regardless of history. The clear intention was to go acknowledge the clear showboating Reilly didn’t like, but he chose to have his gloves glued on. Reilly deserves to be suspended, and showboating doesn’t warrant a cross-check to the head.Having said that, there’s a clear case of disrespecting the unwritten rules amongst the players. I’m not advocating violence, but there’s a time and a place for showboating. Hockey is competitive and many don’t agree on the physical aspect of the game, which is fine. However, the physical response from Toronto was predictable and expected, especially in a game that has been traditionally physical and competitive at large and in general.
The play that occurred after the hardest-shot audition was not barbaric, hockey is physical and it also does have consequences set in place for when players are too physical. I love the game of hockey for what it is, it’s uniquely intense and has a special element to it that most other sports have. Showboating and disrespecting the other team when you know you’re going to win will be met with aggression. Mistakes happen in the grander scheme of themes, Reilly made the mistake and is deserving of a suspension. However, an in-person suspension is a massive overreaction coming from the NHL Department of Player Safety.
This play is a obvious showing of a grudge that current head of player safety and retired NHL heavyweight George Parros still carries to this day. Remember Jason Spezza getting a six-game suspension even though he had no prior history? It was reduced to four games, yes, but it was not a play that warranted more than a few games, like this play with Morgan Reilly.
In my opinion, Rielly approached Greig, but I don’t believe his intention was to catch him high with his stick. However, I acknowledge that many fans interpret the play differently. If Rielly hadn’t made contact high with his stick, the situation could have still escalated into a scrum without penalties or a fight if the referees and other players intervened in time. Reilly was ready to engage, and Grieg knew there was an answer coming his way for the play.
A deliberate cross-check to the head would be a significantly different scenario, but intent doesn’t excuse the outcome, and Rielly is responsible for what occurred. If you believe Rielly intentionally aimed to cross-check Greig in the head with the intent to cause severe injury, then your outrage is justified. While I personally disagree with this assessment, I wouldn’t argue against the notion that such a play has no place in the game.
We can’t definitively determine Rielly’s intentions, but I have confidence in him both as a player. I’ve experienced firsthand how a stick can accidentally make contact with an opponent’s face in a similar situation. Additionally, many have noted that Greig’s actions were within the rules, whereas Rielly’s were not. This is a valid point. However, my main argument is that there isn’t a coach, general manager, or veteran player who might feel the need to advise Rielly to behave differently in the future. The same cannot be said for Greig, especially seeing the reactions from veteran forward Claude Giroux and head coach Jacques Martin. That’s the key distinction.