Disrespect the Handshake Line? Disrespect the Game

What should have been a memorable moment in NHL history quickly turned into a disgusting act on the center stage of the hockey world.

After what seemed like the entire NHL fan base had picked the Boston Bruins to return to the Stanley Cup Final, the Montreal Canadiens handed their Atlantic Division foes a seven-game loss to advance to the Eastern Conference finals for only the second time since 1993 — the year the Canadian team won its last Stanley Cup.

Not only that, this was the first time that goaltender Carey Price led his team through the first two rounds of the playoffs — not to mention against formidable foes who know how to put the puck in the net. Defenseman P.K. Subban is having a remarkable playoff run and forward Danny Briere is on a quest to win his first career Stanley Cup at the age of 36.

Nobody is talking about that, though. The discussions have revolved around a few moments that slander the good name of the sport.

After the grueling final moments of Game 7 played out, the Canadiens gathered in their zone for the usual celebration after a series victory. Tradition looked to play out, as Boston skated single file to center ice to exchange pleasantries with the team that bested them. One player decided that the game was not over and continued to run his mouth long after the final whistle.

“I’m going to [expletive] kill you next year,” was a phrase uttered by Bruins forward Milan Lucic toward Canadiens forward Dale Weise. He had some more choice words for defenseman Alexei Emelin, which have not surfaced to the NHL media as of Friday morning.

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After the game, Lucic continued to show his true colors, calling out Weise for discussing the choice words with reporters.

That’s said on the ice so it’ll stay on the ice, so if he wants to be a baby about it, he can make it public,” he said.

The handshake line is a sacred tradition that displays one thing to the audience watching in the arena or at home: we may not like you, but we respect you.

The handshake at the end of a series is respected across the sports world (photo property of Pam Rodriguez)
The handshake at the end of a series is respected across the sports world (photo property of Pam Rodriguez)

As a fan of all things hockey (and a beer league skater, as well), I can understand the frustration and anger that can come from battling a team for seven games. However, the handshake line encapsulates the game of hockey as a whole. If you decide to take your personal vendettas out during these final moments of the series, you are disrespecting the game that we hold so dear.

Think about it. Of all the friends you have that do not enjoy the NHL, what’s the one thing you always hear them say that they respect about hockey?

Think Blue, a Los Angeles Dodgers baseball blog, posted a story earlier this season about how baseball could use something like hockey’s greatest tradition. This taken directly from writer Harold Uhlman:

“It’s something all sports fans can appreciate and hockey fans expect. After a long hard fought series comes one of the sports world’s greatest shows of sportsmanship and respect. Players line up to shake hands, putting the pride and integrity of the game and of their franchise above their own. The winning team takes some time to celebrate while the losers simply wait out of respect until the celebration is finished.”

The sign of sportsmanship can be seen in every series, even the ones that you think there should be bad blood. For example, the St. Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks from Rd. 1 featured a hit that was scrutinized and debated over for well over a week. Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook caught Blues forward David Backes with a headshot that resulted in the injured Backes missing two games and Seabrook sitting out three games with a suspension. However, when the series ended after Game 6, it was a different scene on the ice.
Backes and Seabrook met at center, exchanged pleasantries and it even looked like an apology was made. Backes ended the quick conversation with a few pats to Seabrook’s shoulder and the two continued through the line.

(courtesy NHL.com)
(courtesy NHL.com)

If those two can find a way to let bygones be bygones (at least until next season), it’s hard to believe that anyone else can hold a grudge.

However, it seems like we hear about some bad blood year after year as of late. In 2009, Pittsburgh Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby reportedly snubbed Detroit Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom in the handshake line. His reason? “I just won the Stanley Cup, and I think I have the right to celebrate with my teammates,” he told reporters a few days later.

Two years later, the Penguins and Washington Capitals broke the Winter Classic handshake tradition, after the Capitals won the up-and down contest, 3-1.

There’s a bit of a hate for each other,” said Capitals defenseman Mike Green after the game.

One of the shining moments of every series is when the goalies meet in the line (Scott Stewart-USA TODAY Sports)
One of the shining moments of every series is when the goalies meet in the line (Scott Stewart-USA TODAY Sports)

We’ve seen arguments. We’ve even seen handshake brawls. It’s these types of distasteful performances that provide haters of hockey the gun with which to shoot us down whenever we talk about the grace of our sport.

There are many speculating as to whether Lucic deserves a suspension for his actions. The real punishment, though, will come from within. The Bruins star now has to think about his defacement of the game until he hits the ice again next season.

He won’t have the opportunity to rectify his unjust actions until next postseason, either. If he has any respect left for the game he plays at all, this is a sanction that will go far beyond anything the league can hand him.

13 thoughts on “Disrespect the Handshake Line? Disrespect the Game”

  1. The handshake line is something the fans love to talk up, but let’s not pretend it’s popular with the players. Read Elliott Friedman’s 30 Thoughts column posted right now on CBC, he alludes to how many players hate the line…..especially those on the losing side.

    Also, Crosby did NOT “snub” the handshake line. He and a few teammates were a little late getting to it. Lidstrom was just acting like a butt hurt baby. Go and google “sidney crosby 2009 handshake line” and you’ll find plenty of pics of Crosby exchanging handshakes with Wings players. His exchange with Mike Babcock in that same line was caught and mike was quoted as saying “great series. great leadership by you”. So, try again Crosby haters.

  2. Hockey has come a long way in skills and fan base. People react to winning and a loss in different ways, especially a loss that occurred a few minutes earlier. There is no right and wrong answer on how to behave in a handshake when so much emotions are involved.

    I am a Canadiens fan and Wiese can say what he wants, but Lucic is proven himself as a consistent player time and time again, especially in the clutch, and what he says in the line does not make him any less of a player, he just showed another side of the emotions involved. Even in game 7, I always thought Lucic would rally the troops. Weisse on the other hand, who probably has had no real opportunity to shake hands in a playoff line-up before, should of kept his mouth shut.

    Maybe Billy Smith was right along.

  3. …thanks for the column, mr ponder…makes a ton of sense to moi…

    …I don’t understand wysh’s thinking on this other than his not understanding exactly how important this tradition is not only within the game but also as an admired act by other sports players & non-hockey fans…

    …I prob’ly hear this every year from friends who know i’m a big hockey guy – “dude, that’s such a tough sport so I like how those guys line up & shake hands after they battle so hard”…

    …anyway, while I feel the league shouldn’t fine or suspend milan lucic, I do think a statement from the league office disassociating themselves from that type of behavior would be wise so that the message is carried not just to lucic but beyond…

    …sad act by a hockey player I’ve always had a certain admiration for…

  4. There is a commercial here in Toronto, about an Asian man that immigrated to Canada and left his family behind. The man got introduced to hockey in his new homeland and was amazed that after 60 mins of battling and punching each other out in this rough sport of hockey, the guys line up to shake hands at the end. He never got it but it was it was one of the amazing things he has seen. So when he went back home to visit his family, whenever members of the family have a heated argument or a fight, immediately after the last word is said, he goes “it’s time to shake hands’ and all the members of his family shake hands..his family never got it until they eventually moved to Canada. It’s a Canadian thing..it shows respect and it’s beautiful. In other sports, you don’t have to shake hands, you can go back to the locker room. Only in hockey everybody lines to make sure every hand is shook. It’s not a time for death threats.

  5. Lucic looked butt hurt?!?!? He just lost a Game 7 to the Bruins most hated rival – What is supposed to be his response…hugs? All this talk of respect is a joke especially coming from a team who disrespects the game of hockey as a whole with it’s divers…whiners…and turtles – Hey Habs…let’s bring back the Savards…the Robinsons…the Nilans…completely respectable Canadiens who can to take it AND give it back when they don’t like it – Lucic spears Emelin what does Emelin do…collapses faster than the Stardust did in Vegas – Chara gets the same treatment with a spear to the boys and what does he do…he goes right at a large dude in Markov who hides behind a little guy in Weaver…who got his bell rung a few times for sticking up for him – Markov’s next move is to be a team player and join the scrum only to get breathed on by Iginla and hits deck harder than a drunken sailor…PATHETIC!!! – While I don’t think it is an unneeded ritual it is what it is and what happens…happens – I have to agree with the consensus that what is said on the ice stays on the ice…the next season is where bells are answered not sniveling to the media – Why all the venom towards Lucic when Doan didn’t shut his yap up down the whole line and threatened a handful of guys too – I’m sure those two incidents aren’t the first and won’t be the last – Here’s one…who’s going to be the first team NOT to lineup for that handshake? It is going to happen…hell…it already happened in the Winter Classic

  6. I hadn’t heard about Cindy Criesby snubbing Lidstrom until reading this article, and the quote of his lame excuse.

    As if I didn’t already hate that gutless, whining crybaby….this just makes it that much stronger.

  7. Thanks for writing a thoughtful and measured piece, Jeff… which was basically the opposite of the one hacked out by Greg “WHAT was he THINKING?!?” Wyshynski.

  8. Ross – Reading his piece last night is what actually encouraged me to write this. Is it a direct response? Not really… but it’s definitely a response.

  9. This is a great, if unintended, response to Greg Wyshynski calling the post-series handshake “the worst tradition in hockey” yesterday. Keep up the good work, Ponder.

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