Case in point was last night's game between the Canucks and Jets, a big team that uses a thumping style and some level of intimidation to try to win games. During the first period, Luca Sbisa caught Jet rookie Nikolaj Ehlers with a mostly clean, jarring hit in the Jet zone.
Some might argue that it was worth a penalty at all, that it was a clean hit that separated a player from the puck.
In any case, Mr. Sbisa served a minor penalty for a check to the head, and the Jets made the Canucks pay, scoring a powerplay goal to go up 1-0.
Justice served, right? A Canuck went over the line in the eyes of the refs, was sent to the box, and they subsequently gave up the initial goal. Don't do it again. Message delivered.
Except, this is the NHL, and there's a 'Code'. And the Jets carry a player like Anthony Peluso, a 6'2", 235 lbs enforcer who has 3 goals in his NHL career, and 39 over his four-year OHL career. He has to justify his job, his roster spot somehow.
So despite Luca Sbisa having served his penalty, after leaving the box and playing a shift, he found himself in the corner with Mr. Peluso, getting crosschecked and mugged, and had to drop the gloves to defend himself.
A wag on social media was driven to remark this last night:
"Jeeze. What the heck was Sbisa thinking taking on Peluso? Guy can take a beating though."My thoughts exactly. Luca Sbisa is a Top 4 defenceman in the current Canucks lineup, and shouldn't be fighting fringe fourth-line goons. Especially when they outweigh him by thirty pounds.
And that's the point. Luca Sbisa is a little bit like Alexei Emelin, a guy who plays rough and dishes out hits, but doesn't fight. And he shouldn't have to, especially on legal hits, or hits that he's been penalized for. But, as Don Cherry will reverently intone, he had to 'answer the bell'.
And predictably for Luca, it didn't go well for him, he took several solid punches to the head and face, to the point that the play-by-play guys, both TV and radio, commented during the scrap that the linesmen should jump in and break this up, that Mr. Sbisa was in trouble.
He played a couple more shifts, but had to leave the game later. Today, it's announced that he suffered a "fight-related" injury and is out indefinitely.