So when did the Stanley Cup Final become "Slap Shot 3: Give 'em the finger"?
Is this what the NHL wants its marquee event to turn into? What's next, the Bruins dressing Ogie Oglethorpe and the Canucks countering with Clarence "Screaming Buffalo" Swamptown for Game 4 Wednesday night?
It all started back in Game 1, when the Canucks' Alexandre Burrows bit the gloved finger of the Bruins' Patrice Bergeron during a scrum. Burrows should have been suspended at least a game for that, but wasn't.
The NHL's decision not to discipline Burrows bit the Bruins again in Game 2, when Burrows scored the winning goal 11 seconds into overtime to give Vancouver a 2-0 series lead.
Then, early in Game 3, the Canucks' Aaron Rome flattened the Bruins' Nathan Horton with an open ice check the Bruins say was dirty and the Canucks maintain was clean. Horton, after lying on the ice motionless for a frightful few moments, was taken off the ice on a stretcher. Rome was ejected -- probably more for his own safety than anything else -- and subsequently was issued a suspension for the rest of the Final.
I side with the Canucks on this one. I maintain the hit was clean; Rome did not leave his feet to check Horton, and because Rome caught Horton just right and the back of Horton's head hit the ice -- causing a concussion that will sideline him for the rest of the series -- it looked a lot worse than Rome intended to make it. I'll go so far as to say had Horton bounced back up and play continued, there might not have even been a penalty called.
For his part, Rome -- who plans to appeal the suspension -- was contrite, and stated his case during his hearing with NHL Senior VP of Hockey Operations Mike Murphy.
"(Rome) felt it was a hockey play, a hockey play that went bad," Murphy said. "They're my words, not his, but that's basically what he said. The puck was released, and he followed through with the hit.
"The hit was clearly beyond what is acceptable in terms of how late it was delivered after Horton had released the puck, and it caused a significant injury."
All of this gets back to what is clearly not acceptable: During just about every post-whistle get-together in the Bruins' 8-1 Game 3 victory, a Boston player would stick a bare finger in the face of a Vancouver player -- clearly unsportsmanlike, clearly taunting.
Yes, Burrows should have been suspended. But to keep this type of behavior going just sullies the game even more on its grandest stage.
How about this: Any player taunting in a similar manner during a scrum gets a two-minute unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and a 10-minute misconduct. That would stop the nonsense. At least it sounds as if Murphy is heading in that direction. He said he planned to speak with the general managers and coaches of both teams "about the crap that we're seeing, the garbage that is going on."
And hopefully keeping Tim "Dr. Hook" McCracken far, far away.