By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs
BOSTON -- Many hockey people are convinced an unwritten rule in the hockey world was crossed when Sean Avery complained he was the victim of homophobic barbs uttered by Philadelphia Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds.
The words were offensive if Simmonds truly said them, and on one level Avery was courageous in standing up for a cause he adamantly believes in. But theres also the code among NHL players that trash talk and on-ice insults never reach the media, and you dont go public with something said to you during a game.
There is some nasty stuff out there. Chatter about divorces and player backgrounds or physical characteristics are commonplace, and there was even an instance two years ago when Mike Richards threatened to knock Marc Savard back out with a concussion just months after the Matt Cooke incident.
It can get ugly when NHL players add a little salt to their language, and the competitive juices get involved. But clearly insults aimed at race, creed, religion, sexual orientation or players families is crossing over the line into an area that shouldnt be approached, but surely is in plenty of instances.
Claude Julien has witnessed this kind of trash talk behind the bench with the Bruins, and hes hoped for years that it would get cleaned up. Clearly theres verbal abuse for referees that has always been a part of the NHL, and there are penalties in place for stepping over the line. But the taunts and colorful language between players battling on the ice has been considered mental warfare, and off limits from discipline where its difficult to prove what was said.
There's a rule in place for when there's a certain type of language -- whether it's to referees and stuff like that you certainly can get tossed out of a game, said Julien. I'm one of those guys that believe that you know you shouldn't be crossing the lines. There are some things that are being said out there that are really crossing the line.
The Bruins coach is decidedly from the old school where certain topics are sacred within trash talk, and there are places you just didnt go. But in a world where rats like Avery, Steve Ott and Matt Cooke exist while lurking in the shadows and attempting to provoke their opponents, it seems that nothing is off-limits.
Whether that's been like that decades ago, I'm not quite sure. People are going after divorces or calling people certain names that I don't even want to allude to here, said Julien. But there is a fine line I think that has to exist. There's gamesmanship and then there's crossing the line. I think more and more, players today are going further than they used to so.
You'd hope that it would be policed by the players and by having a little bit more respect for each other. They are part of a player's association, they should all be part of a group and there should be at least that kind of respect that exists. Some people are better at refraining themselves than others. You always have those other kind of guys whether the league needs to step into it . . . it's always a hard thing to prove. You know he said, she said and whatever. It's not an easy thing to tackle.
As Julien alluded and as Avery found out again this week, policing conversations between players on the ice isnt an easy thing. Sure there is more access, more microphones and cameras to pick up conversations on the ice and sensitivities to so many items within each players life, but theres also the Fight Club mentality that continues to permeate the NHL at all levels.
Rule No. 1: Whatever is said on the ice stays on the ice. Rule No. 2: Always refer back to rule No. 1 during moments of confusion.