Mike RIchards was relieved to see teammate Anze Kopitar up and around and relatively OK after his big hit from Dallas’ Brenden Morrow last night, but Richards was not pleased with the aftermath of the it. Richards immediately jumped on Morrow and the two fought. Richards received an extra penalty for instigating the fight, and then automatically received extra penalties — an unsportsmanlike-conduct minor and a 10-minute misconduct — for wearing a visor. Richards was upset, both with the on-ice call and the rule that led to his extra penalties.
RICHARDS: “I didn’t think it was an instigator. I thought we dropped our gloves at the exact same time. I asked him to fight, he said yes and we dropped our gloves. I’ve never been called for an instigator before, and especially not an instigator for fighting with a visor. I think the most frustrating thing is, if the NHL is trying to get us to wear visors, and then we get penalized for fighting with them, I think it kind of defeats the purpose.’’
Question: Because you just do it in the heat of the moment, right?
RICHARDS: “Yeah, exactly. You hear all the speculation about having set [staged] fights and fighting in the moment, things like that. Then when you do fight in the moment, you get penalized for it because you had a visor on. I don’t really understand the whole (thing) about visors, and if they want people to wear them or not. It just seems like everyday is something new.’’
Question: Given your situation, this year, with the hit to the head and all, you must have been concerned to see the hit that Kopitar took…
RICHARDS: “I was obviously scared for Kopi. You never like to see a player like that. Even thought it was a shoulder-to-shoulder hit, those are dangerous plays. It’s good to see that he’s healthy and doing well. Like I said, it’s just one of those in-the-moment things. If you’re going to get penalized for sticking up for your teammates, that’s a tough message to send around the league.’’
Question: You hear the talk about taking the instigator penalty out of the game totally…
RICHARDS: “I think Brian Burke said in, in an article last week, about how the smaller — I don’t know the exact words he used — I think he said `rats,’ but how the smaller guys are starting to take over the league. You make a hit like that — not that Morrow didn’t defend himself, because he’s a tough guy and probably got the better side of me on that — and then we’re down four minutes at a key part of the game. If I get four minutes after that, and put the team down, you’re probably going to think twice about it (next time). It’s a touchy subject. It’s something that I don’t think us, as players, totally understand what they want. If you’re going to give a guy a four-minute penalty for sticking up for teammates, I think that’s the wrong way.’’
Question: Have you ever had a penalty like that before?
RICHARDS: “I can’t remember ever getting an instigator. On plays like that, it’s usually a two-minute roughing or something like that. But the refs are there to call what they see. They made the right calls. You can’t argue with that. I just think it’s a dumb rule in place.’’
Darryl Sutter also weighed in on the visor rule that Richards disputed…
SUTTER: “That is sort of a funny rule. The one penalty that you still deem as a good penalty is protecting your teammates. With that heavyweight (enforcer) thing going away in the league, guys with heart and character have always been guys that have protected their teammates. Without saying it is grandfathered in, there aren’t too many kids coming up who don’t wear visors, right? So it may be a rule that has gone past its time. It’s probably something that they should look at, when you look at it.’’
Question: If you were commissioner, would you try to eliminate the instigator rule completely?
SUTTER: “I’ve been all over with it, in the few years of it. The way the fighting part has changed, the intimidation has changed in the game, really I don’t even know where I stand on it anymore. It’s more a case-to-case thing with me.’’