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Marchand & Panarin: More than Just a Glove

Games between Boston and New York tend to be heated affairs. That proved true the other night when the Rangers visited TD Garden. Rather than good old-fashioned hockey fights, though, the conflict happened on the bench. I’m sure fans of both teams were confused when Artemi Panarin stood up and threw his left glove at Brad Marchand on the other bench, seemingly out of nowhere. It must have been even more confusing when Marchand was given the same 10-minute misconduct penalty.

So What Happened?

It will surprise no one to learn that Marchand Marchand-ed; he was trash-talking Panarin, as he does everyone, and crossed a line for the Breadman. According to early reports, Marchand brought up Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom Panarin has been outspoken against. Panarin confirmed that’s the gist of what was said. The Bruin also suggested that no Russian liked Panarin.

Saturday, Panarin was fined $5,000, the maximum allowed by the Collective Bargaining Agreement, for throwing his glove at Marchand. Unofficially and superficially, this is probably the funniest reason for a fine in recent years.

What’s the Big Deal?

Everyone in and around hockey knows trash talk is part of the game. Some players, like Marchand, even use it as one of their most valuable skills. Most are thick-skinned and let insults roll off their backs, even nasty things about family members, as is common in lower leagues like the NCAA. Right or wrong, it happens and players deal with it.

But every so often, a line is crossed. It isn’t always the same line, as it’s different for every individual. For Panarin, that line is Putin.

Panarin & Putin

In 2019, Panarin didn’t hold back in his criticisms of Russian and President Putin. He expressed frustration with the lack of economic growth outside of the elite, the disparity in classes, and Putin’s overall regime. He was eloquent, he supported the average Russian citizen, and encouraged them to look outwards at Western countries like America for better examples of governments. But he knew it was dangerous, even joking in the interview that he thought he saw a laser from a rifle scope through the window.

In February 2021, a former coach of Panarin’s claimed to a Russian newspaper that Panarin had assaulted a girl in Riga, Latvia in 2011. It’s important to note that the alleged girl never came forward, no record of Panarin’s alleged detainment was released, and the newspaper is pro-Kremlin, AKA pro-Putin (think Fox News and Trump). The NHL and NY Rangers both gave him their full support, believing the allegation to be nothing more than “an intimidation tactic.” All things considered, it’s entirely probable to be just that, though you have to give the puppetmaster credit for their cunning. In the age of believing victims first, an assault allegation is a good tactic to ruin someone’s credibility and career.

Fallout

Thanks to this article, even if untrue, Panarin decided to take a leave of absence from the Rangers, to lay low. Basically, he went into hiding from whatever he thought the Russian government may try next. Where Russia is concerned, I don’t blame him.

Alexei Navalny, an activist whom Panarin has supported publicly, has been the target of several attacks including having his face sprayed with dye (potentially mixed with other harmful things) in 2017 and being poisoned on a Russian plane with a Novichok nerve agent in 2020. Even on foreign soil, Russia has been known to assassinate political dissidents, like the 2006 poisoning of defector Alexander Litvinenko in London. Though we may not know much about them in America, these two men were well known in Russia. If the powers that be were willing to take out such public figures, it stands to reason that something similar may happen to Panarin.

The Ranger was back to Madison Square Garden a few weeks later.

Overreaction or Justified?

With all of this background, the throwing of the glove makes a lot more sense. Had Marchand been insulting his size, throwing a glove would have been an overreaction. But a joke about a man who would have no qualms about actually taking Panarin’s life? In my eyes, he deserved more than just a glove.

I know it’s just talk and it’s just what Marchand does, but when someone’s life could legitimately be on the line, that’s too far. Stopping at “no Russians like you” would have been fine. But bringing up Putin is like personally threatening to kill him. That’s messed up, joke or not.

Penalties & Fines

In reference to the consequences for both Marchand and Panarin, I have mixed feelings. Panarin’s fine for throwing the glove is totally fair. He knew he was wrong to do it and seems to regret it, talking about how kids watch what they do as NHL players and implying their responsibility to set a good example.

And both misconduct penalties I believe were justified. The reason for Panarin is obvious, but for Marchand, I think it was good for the linesman to acknowledge that he was in the wrong for instigating. He heard exactly what was said and made the right judgment call, in my opinion.

The league declined to further penalize him, however. Even though Marchand was wearing a microphone at the time, the remarks were not aired. For whatever reason, that means the League can’t hear them to decide one way or the other. Personally, given the nature of Panarin and Putin’s relationship (or lack thereof), I think Marchand deserved at least a tiny slap on the wrist if only to make the statement that he was in the wrong for his comments. If $5k is hardly a drop in the bucket, a $1k fine is nothing.

Image courtesy of the NY Post.

-Heidi Thomas (@DamselOnDrums)

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Heidi Thomas

Washington Capitals fan, casual gamer, hiking enthusiast. Ask me about my Greyhound. I also wrote a book once.

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