TORONTO — On Tuesday night in a pre-season game against the Ottawa Senators at Air Canada Centre, Toronto Maple Leafs David Clarkson skated just over 13 minutes, picked up an assist, and later atoned.
Meanwhile, Leafs leading scorer last year, Phil Kessel, sat upstairs in a tie and trousers.
Kessel was not in the Leafs lineup after learning he had to serve a three-game suspension for slashing his stick repeatedly at Buffalo Sabres John Scott in Sunday’s pre-season game.
The altercation sparked a line brawl between the division rivals, in which Clarkson was slapped with a 10 regular-season game ban for leaving the bench to get involved in the fight.
“I saw something go on that I hadn’t seen and I hadn’t been a part of so It’s hard for anyone to say anything unless you’re sitting there and you’ve got your feet in those skates because I have never seen something like that go down before,” said Clarkson, after the game on Tuesday, the first time he had spoken to the media about his suspension.
“I have been involved in brawls and been involved in things like that, but I don’t think I realized until I got here and was told to hurry out and here we are now.”
Talk swirled that Clarkson, who was acquired this year by the Leafs in a blockbuster seven-year, $5.25-million per season deal, would appeal the National Hockey League’s ruling, but Tuesday he said he would accept the decision.
“I’m not appealing it,” he said. “I’m going to take it and work hard to get back.”
While Clarkson learned of his fate on Monday morning, a cut-and-dried punishment as mandated by the league, Kessel’s came late Tuesday afternoon via conference call with the league’s director of player safety, Brendan Shanahan.
In the decision, the league stated that “while we acknowledge that Kessel’s initial motivation was self-defence, he persists and swings his stick again even after having escaped the initial threat from Scott,” said Shanahan in a video posted on NHL.com explaining the rational behind the suspension.
The video added that six days earlier, Kessel was in another stick-swinging row in a game against Philadelphia.
When news dropped, the hockey cognoscente hit the airwaves, some suggesting the punishment did not meet the crime.
TSN’s Bryan Hayes tweeted: “The happiest guy to hear about the Kessel suspension? Phil Kessel. They’re meaningless, annoying pre-season games & he doesn’t lose a penny.”
Former Globe & Mail sports editor, Dave Langford said in a tweet: “Had so much confidence in Shanahan, but Kessel two-handers and spear equal no suspension is just wrong!”
However, Leafs head coach, Randy Carlyle, kept mum on the subject, knowing full well that sometimes you just have to take your lumps and move on.
“I don’t make comments on what’s fair and not fair, I let experts make those calls because I have been fined before for my criticism for what happens at the league,” he said in a post game interview.
“My wife told me to shut my mouth.”