Nashville Predators’ player James Neal has become the first man fined by the National Hockey League for diving in a game.
Neal has long been known for ‘embellishing’ contact and thereby pointing a traditionally hard-man’s game in the direction of South American soccer. Against the San Jose sharks, however, he was a little too flagrant, cartwheeling to the ice after a light tap on the leg.
In a post-match review the NHL decided to slap a $2,000 sanction on him for bringing the game into disrepute.
Given that Neal makes $5 million per season, the fine will hurt less than going down in history as the first man ever to be caught diving.
In recent times there have been an increasing number of players gaming the referee rather than the opponents. The NHL is determined to root it out of the game, branch and stem.
In other hockey news Richard Panik, from the Toronto Maple Leafs stunned his hometown crowd by scoring a highlight reel goal and finishing the game duking it out against the boards with Detroit defenceman Brendon Smith.
Since joining the Leafs Panik has shown impressive stick control, jaw-dropping speed, and utter abandon when laying down the law against his opponents.
On Saturday he bought the hometown crowd to their feet as he blitzed through the line of defence and taunted goalie Petr Mrazek. He switched the puck left and right like a casino dealer shuffling cards before slapping it between the goalies’ pads and setting off the siren.
Not content with just winning the game 4-1, Panik decided to show the Detroit defenceman Brendon Smith who the boss was in the dying minutes of the game.
Both men dropped gloves and set-to with some heavy and telling blows before wrestling each other to the ice. And didn’t the Toronto crowd love it!
The Leafs are firming as serious Playoff contenders having won their last six matches.