Zac Rinaldo made a bad situation worse Tuesday night and the NHL better come down hard on him.
In case you missed the circus of a game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers last night, here’s the controversy.
With about four minutes to go in the first period, Rinaldo drilled Kris Letang into the boards from behind.
Additionally, Rinaldo left his skates to deliver the brutal hit.
Letang’s head smacked the glass and he fell to the ice.
He would remain down for a couple of minutes before walking down the runway under his own power.
Letang did not return to the game and he will be re-evaluated today.
Rinaldo was assessed a five-minute major for boarding and a game misconduct.
We didn’t see a lot of objection from the Flyers’ players or coaches about the call and rightly so.
However, the fans in attendance voiced their displeasure with deafening boos.
Can you imagine what it would have been like if one of the Flyers had been on the receiving end of a hit like that?
Oh wait, watch this:
Anyway, back to the matter at hand.
The game devolved into a penalty and fight fest, which the Penguins would lose 3-2 in overtime.
Honestly, it seems kind of harsh for the Penguins to lose a game like this. You know, because the Flyers weren’t all that concerned with playing hockey for at least the first 40 minutes.
But, that’s beside the point.
Following the game, Rinaldo added fuel to the fire by making light of his hit on Letang.
“I hit him back side of the shoulder. I don’t know, maybe the power of my hit made his head hit the glass. I didn’t hit him from behind,” Rinaldo said.
Did Rinaldo hit Letang squarely in the numbers? No. Did he take a flying start and hit a player in a vulnerable position? Absolutely and that’s why he was ejected.
When asked about leaping to deliver the hit, he blamed it on momentum and other forms of black magic.
“I was going pretty fast. I would think me hitting him and the impact of me leaving him threw me up a little. If you slow it down, any hit, you see guys, every single hit you slow it down and dissect every single little detail, you’re going to see something that you can criticize,” Rinaldo said.
That’s all well and good except, Rinaldo was off the ice before making contact with Letang. Minor details, I know.
So, is a suspension coming for the hit? You better believe it. There will be an in-person hearing too, which signifies that it will cost Rinaldo at least five games.
It’s okay though, he’s cool with it.
“More than likely I’m going to get suspended, yeah,” Rinaldo said.
So, why does he think he’s going to be suspended?
“Just the way the league is going right now. Especially it being Letang, the star player, it being me with some history and him getting hurt doesn’t help me and my situation either. So, I’m just gonna take it with a grain of salt.”
Is that supposed to be some sort of “poor me” excuse?
I’m just going to assume the league will take this following comment with a grain of salt too.
“I changed the whole game, man. [Expletive], who knows what the game would have been like if I didn’t do what I did,” Rinaldo said.
Here’s the thing – it shouldn’t matter that it was a star player like Letang.
It shouldn’t matter that there was an injury.
The fact of the matter is this was a dangerous hit from a guy who has a history of this sort of thing.
He’s already been suspended twice in his career, with the most recent one coming in April of last year.
Not to mention, he didn’t really show an ounce of remorse while talking about the incident to reporters.
Watch for yourself. Warning – there’s some explicit language.
The apology came later – on Twitter.
I didn’t intend to hurt Kris tonight. I’m very sorry I did. At no point did I ever “joke” about such a thing. These reports are untrue.
— Zac Rinaldo (@RinaldoZac) January 21, 2015
So, Rinaldo didn’t see anything wrong with his answers or the hit itself. Just making sure we’re on the same page here.
In addition to the hit, he should get a couple of more games or a fine at minimum for his comments.
Let’s not kid ourselves. It’s impossible to eliminate every bad hit with a game played at this speed.
However, you can severely reduce the number of incidents like this by not giving these types of players a contract.
Time will tell how hard the league comes down on Rinaldo.
For now, here’s hoping Letang is okay.
You can follow Casey Shea on Twitter at http://twitter.com/sheavedice