NHL Lets Daniel Briere off Hook Lightly With Three-Game Suspension

NHL Lets Daniel Briere off Hook Lightly With Three-Game Suspension Hockey is a physical sport — so much so that the game literally stops so that two men can take turns punching each other in the face.

Still, there is no room for what Daniel Briere did on Saturday night.

The Flyers forward was exchanging verbal barbs with Frans Nielsen prior to a faceoff in the Islanders' end of the ice. With the Flyers winning 6-1 and 1:00 left on the clock, the game, which would have 118 combined penalty minutes, was all but over when Briere won the faceoff before taking his own stick and bashing Nielsen in the face.

It was borderline assault.

On Monday, the NHL ruled to suspend Briere for three games. While it's a good sign that the NHL is actually suspending a player worthy of suspension, the punishment is far too light.

Maybe it would not be if Briere admitted some fault after the incident, but instead he nonchalantly discussed the play before laughing when asked if he had been thrown out of a game before.

That's not to say Briere deserves to be banished to hockey hell, but missing a week's worth of games against the Hurricanes, Rangers and Islanders hardly seems like a deterrent from anyone pulling the same stunt again. Was a five-game suspension deemed too harsh? Certainly, it wouldn't have been as gratuitous or unnecessary as was the stick to Nielsen's face.

In 2000, Marty McSorley performed a much more egregious violation by swinging his stick wildly at Donald Brashear's face. While Briere's high stick on Nielsen wasn't nearly as violent, it's worth noting that McSorley was suspended for a full season and never played in the NHL again. Briere's hit was — and this is admittedly a mostly arbitrary estimate — probably 10 percent as violent as Brashear's, so would an eight-game suspension be that crazy?

Of course, as with any story of this nature, it's not without controversy. Tim Panaccio of CSNPhilly.com asserted that "the incident didn’t deserve three games, but that is the price a player pays for being a repeat offender."

Briere's record includes a two-game suspension for high-sticking Brian Leetch of the Bruins in March of 2006, an incident that looked to be truly accidental, and a two-game suspension for an undeniably dirty hit from Scott Hannan's blind side last November (video here).

Briere isn't generally a dirty player, and what he did to Nielsen wasn't the most heinous act ever committed on a sheet of ice. It still warranted a suspension longer than 4 percent of the entire season.

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