Saturday 10 February 2024

There Is No Code

The man to the left is Ridly Greig. You likely heard about what Greig did tonight on every single sports highlight show, and every player, fan, coach, analyst, and clown on social media has submitted his or her opinion on whether what Greig did was disrespectful and the response to that move by Toronto's Morgan Rielly. Consider this my submission to the discussion because I'm the kind of person who would want Greig playing for my team if I could acquire him. Far too often, we're told how tough hockey players are when it comes to physical battery, but it seems that a vast number of players are as fragile as a wet tissue paper when it comes to understanding that what Greig did was fine and what Rielly did was not fine. Allow me to explain.

First, let's bring in the video of said play tonight.
Some have preached that Greig broke "the code" by disrespecting the Maple Leafs with that in-the-crease slapshot into an empty net, and the response by Rielly was suitable for "correcting" that disrespect. Others have stated that Greig did nothing wrong and that Rielly should be suspended anywhere from a game to the rest of his life for his actions. Many more have suggested a combination of both. I'm of the mindset that what Greig did was fine, what Rielly did was beyond wrong, and what Rielly should have done was something else if he felt compelled to send a message.

First, Greig's slapshop into an empty net doesn't matter how it goes in. No one was going to catch him, no one was going to block the shot, and there was virtually zero time left on the clock. Why does floating it in from the blue line make it better or worse than Greig's slapshot? Why does a slapshot from center ice get less anger than a slapshot a foot from the goal line? An empty net goal is an empty net goal - no one asks how it went it, and, frankly, no one cares.

Second, if Rielly didn't like the slapshot from inside the crease, maybe play better during the 59:55 of game play so you're not giving up an empty-net goal of any kind. Rielly can be frustrated with the game and how the Leafs played, but he cannot take it out on Greig like he did. If you don't like empty-net goals being scored on you, stop giving other teams that opportunity. To respond like he did, though, is one of the most cowardly acts you'll see in hockey, and it absolutely compares with the Dale Hunter hit on Pierre Turgeon for its cowardice in attacking an unsuspecting player.

Third, the crosscheck to the face should be an automatic five-game suspension, and I'd be looking at ten games if I were running the Department of Player Safety. That was one of the most unnecessary headshots that could be delivered, and Greig took to square on the jaw. He didn't have his hands up and he wasn't celebrating wildly, but I wouldn't have expected a carbon-fibre sandwich either. Because he assaulted Greig, throw the book at Rielly and make him an example.

Spare me your rhetoric about how he showed up the Maple Leafs as Craig Simpson suggested. Save the oxygen if you start talking about "The Code" because it doesn't extend to a guy scoring a meaningless goal with five seconds left in the game. There is nothing that says that Rielly has a right to try and decapitate a guy after he does something like that. If Rielly didn't like it, just drop the gloves and settle it. Greig could have prepared for that and been given a chance to answer for his perceived disrespect. Instead, Rielly chose violence with a weapon, and he should pay dearly for it.

Here's why I struggle with this "code" garbage argument: if he had pulled a "Michigan" (correctly identified as a "Bill Armstrong" goal) during the game and scored, would Rielly have reacted the same way? Which one shows up the team more - a meaningless one-foot clapbomb from the crease or a lacrosse-style goal past a netminder and with five defenders watching?

"Yeah, but the lacrosse goal takes a ton of skill, Teebz," I hear you saying, "while the clapper doesn't."

If the argument is a matter of skill, why didn't Shea Weber or Zdeno Chara have to duck swinging sticks after they unleashed a slapshot that found the back of the net? Their shots were harder and faster than the vast majority of NHL players, so that's a skill they possess, right? If you're going to make the skill argument, let's try not to split things into shades of gray. Skilled players have varying levels of skill, so they should all be targets for headshots by that rationale.

No one is saying that anyone has to like what Greig did, but the reaction from Rielly is the problem here. Being that's how he chose to correct what he saw as a problem, he and the Maple Leafs will be forced to deal with the consequences of those actions. If it's a long suspension given the nature of the infraction, that's the price Rielly and the Maple Leafs will have to pay for his delivery of his stick to Greig's face. There were unlimited better ways to have resolved the perceived disrespect that Greig apparently showed, but Rielly chose poorly and will now face the music for his stupidity.

Again, you don't have to like what Greig did, but it's not against the rules, it doesn't break any unwritten rules of a Neanderthalic code, and the goal counts the same as any other goal scored - empty net or not. if you wanted life breathed into the Battle of Ontario again, Greig just huffed and puffed and blew the house down with his actions, but it wasn't worthy of having his head taken off by a frustrated Leafs defender. That's just abhorrent.

My hope is that Ridly Greig is fine and may just end up with a bruise and/or a sore jaw. For Rielly, he better get himself a library card because he may be looking at an extrended break from the game. This was an ugly ending to a play that didn't matter squat to the overall result of the game, but someone's feelings were hurt and he chose violence to resolve that hurt that will now cost him salary and potentially points in the standings due to his absence.

Stop talking about "the code". It only applied to enforcers who had a job to do on the ice, and they knew the specific rules of when to fight, when not to fight, and how to navigate the rules of "the code". It has nothing to do with goals being scored, so stop trying to justify an argument for something that does not exist in hockey.

Simply put, there is no code for empty-net goals.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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