I’m not saying Milan Lucic shouldn’t have speared Alexei Emelin because — or, no, wait, yes, I am saying he shouldn’t have, because that’s awful behaviour, even within hockey’s permissive code, enough to provoke a five-minute major and a game misconduct, if it ever actually happened at all. To be clear, then: Milan Lucic, I’m saying, shouldn’t have speared Alexei Emelin.
This is oldish news, from back in regular-season late March, when Montreal beat Boston one night at the Garden. It seems like a long time ago, a distance you can measure out in newer, bigger, louder Montreal victories (last night); at least two more Lucician spearing incidents (involving Detroit’s Danny deKeyser and Emelin again); and (also last night) the spectacle of Boston’s burly left winger shaking the hands of his triumphant rivals while at the same time threatening them with death.
Oh and, too, Lucic published a kids’ book called Not Cool To Bully In School. He launched it the night after he speared Emelin for the first time. Which, I guess, happens sometimes. All I’m saying is, whether or not it was a good idea on the ice, can there really be any question that from a publishing point of view, this was the wrong thing for the book?
It’s a story about — but maybe let’s come back to that. First, it’s probably important to review the spear itself, if that’s what it was. Lucic said it wasn’t. Emelin — I don’t know if he said anything in public one way or the other. He felt something, which cause caused him to fall to the ice.
That was evident if, like me, you were watching that third period TSN on TV: the puck was down the ice, in Boston territory, and Lucic was skating out of the Montreal end with Emelin and they were …. conversing. The blood was bad, the atmosphere tetchy: I don’t know what they were saying, just that conversation wasn’t quite doing it for Lucic. I grant that it may be a more general memory I have, though I believe it’s specific to this particular exchange, and that I’m fairly describing his complexion as clotted with anger and ill-intent, as it tends to be. To me it looked like he brought the blade of his stick up with unfriendly speed and force between Emelin’s legs. In hockey parlance, that’s called a separator, though there are non-hockey words that come to mind too, culinary terms like spatchcock or maybe the one whalers use when they’re carving up a carcass, to flense.
As in: flensed, Emelin fell.
Two referees didn’t call a penalty, which I guess means they didn’t see it, because if they’d seen, they would have to have called it, since with spearing even intent is sanctioned: under Rule 86, if you stick an Emelin, or anyone, even if you don’t make contact, that’s a double minor.
The Boston Globe, next morning, was on the case, Amalie Benjamin reporting:
Emelin hip-checked Lucic early in the game, a play that appeared to be clean and was not penalized. Zdeno Charastuck up for Lucic after the play, and he was assessed a penalty for roughing Emelin.
Lucic was still heated after the game.
“Whether it’s fair, legal, or whatever you want to call it, if he wasn’t scared, he would stand up and hit me and not go after my knees,” Lucic said. “It just shows how big of a chicken he is that he needs to go down like that to take me down. It shows what kind of player he is, and on my end, you know you’ve got to keep your guard up at all times.”
That wasn’t the end of it, though. Lucic skated by Emelin in the third period and appeared to raise his stick near the player. As Lucic explained it, “Just skating by him and that’s all. People are trying to say I speared him. I did not spear him, so that’s it.”
Unless it wasn’t. Elsewhere, beyond Lucic’s personal zone of denial, the consensus on what had happened was smartly summed in the headline over Rory Boylen’s article at The Hockey News:
Milan Lucic spears Alexei Emelin, calls him a chicken, denies spear despite video evidence
None of which really has anything to do with Not Cool To Bully In School, which the author introduced to his readership the following night. And just because Lucic’s non-literary conduct has, since then, seen him fined $5,000 for spearing Detroit defenceman; attempt a further kebabing of Emelin; beat his chest, flex his muscles; promise to, quote, fucking kill Dale Weise (next year); call Weise a “baby” for mentioning this (moments later) to reporters — how does that really have any bearing on what he’s trying to do between hard covers?
I guess you could argue that hockey player and author are indivisible, especially since the book itself does kind of expressly advocate for not doing that kind of stuff, which it portrays as “wrong.” I’d genuinely like to hear Lucic explain how he reconciles all this — maybe in a library somewhere, to an audience of young prospective readers?
That’s probably enough for now. Tomorrow: why, considered on its own merits, Not Cool To Bully In School is a bad book in a good cause.