Postgame Handshakes Gone Wild!

Marc Elliott

STEWART RIVER… On Wednesday evening the Boston Bruins’ Milan Lucic’s season came to an end. On Friday evening the Anaheim Ducks’ Teemu Selanne’s career came to an end. Regarding Lucic, any comparisons to the ever-classy Selanne would be humorous. Lucic has so little class it would fit on the tip of a needle. Teemu has so much class the oceans would not be big enough to contain it.  Both players had their seasons come to an end, and they handled it in severely different fashion. Lucic told one of the opponent’s players, the Montreal Canadiens’ Dale Weise, in the post-game handshake line that he was “going to (expletive deleted) kill you next year.” For the greatest Finnish player ever, Selanne, every fan in the building from both teams and all of the players themselves applauded and congratulated him heartily on an outstanding Hall of Fame career.
It would be a challenge to find anyone in the game who doesn’t truly like Teemu. It would be hard to find anyone outside of Boston who likes Lucic. But I’ll end the comparisons, for there are none. One is an idiot and one is an outstanding human being. I’ve heard all the debates on this as well. Some are saying that Weise violated “the code,” that he shouldn’t have repeated what was said on the ice. You know—what happens on the ice stays on the ice. I get that. And so does Weise; he didn’t break the code. A media member who apparently can also read lips was the one to do that. All Weise said was that what was said wasn’t complimentary, and it took off from there.
And what if Weise were the one who broke the news about what was said? It doesn’t excuse Lucic’s behavior in the line. Look, I understand that Lucic is not the first one to be a bad Boy Scout in the handshake line, and he assuredly won’t be the last. But I heard many a media member try to blow off what happened by saying that Weise shouldn’t have gone public (he didn’t), and the old, “Well, it’s a tough game. What do you expect?” Another refrain was that they should get rid of the post-game congrats—that only fans like it, that the players don’t, and so on.
The NHL playoff’s post-series formal handshake line is a historic tradition. The NHL is still the only one of the four major sports to do this. Yes, I believe that a majority of the fans do like this. As far as the players go, I would have to believe that most of them agree that it is a good thing and are proud to participate. When I played (non-NHL!) and coached, I embraced the chance to congratulate an opponent on a good game. That doesn’t mean there weren’t times when I would have enjoyed popping a couple of guys, but that’s for in between the 60 minutes. Nor did I ever say anything derogatory.
The fact of the matter is simple: Lucic is wrong. On top of that, in a Friday interview he doubled down and said he wasn’t going to apologize, that he meant what he said. Ok, that’s fine. Own what you say. I don’t have a problem with you being a moron and then confirming it for all to see. I’ve watched you over the years and I already knew it. This is not news. At the end of the day, though, in an era when our society seems to shrug off things like manners, class, integrity, and so on with a simple shrug of the shoulders, I’m not willing to join in. We’ve already compromised too many things that used to make us the great society we WERE.

Lucic is a bully and a baby. He likes to dish it, out and when someone gives it back to him he falls apart. When PK Subban caught him with a legal hip check earlier this season, I thought the world had ended. When HE gets checked hard, it’s end-of-the-world stuff. He threatens retaliation and usually follows through on it. He is a big guy, physically tough and mentally weak: all the hallmarks of a bully. Kind of like his whole team. How about the classless last three minutes of Game 6 in Montreal, where the Habs had fought back to tie the series and Bruins coach Claude Julien sent out his fourth line in a game where it is 4-0! And then the allegedly intelligent commentators stating that “the Bruins are sending a message.” Like what? “We are really stupid”?
The Habs just beat you 4-0! That’s the message! Have some class and resolve to win Game 7 and the series. But you didn’t. You got it handed to you in Game 7, too. It was brains against brawn and brains won, hands down. Your mouths were writing checks that your ass couldn’t cash. Worse of all, none of this has dawned on Lucic the knuckle-dragging Neanderthal. Would it have been that hard to say congratulations, you got us, good luck? No, it’s all about payback and retaliation.
I have a photo in my sports collection that says it all, and you could probably find it online if you looked. It is from 1953 and is of the Habs’ Rocket Richard and the Bruins’ Sugar Jim Henry. Both are substantially worked over from some scraps in the game, and bandages and blood adorn the Rocket, but the iconic photo shows them clasping hands in a sincere show of good sportsmanship at the end of a hard series. I get choked up when I look at that photo. That’s the way it’s supposed to be done. Lucic’s approach is selfish, wrong, and lacking in integrity, and I would be glad to tell him that to his face.
On the other side of the continent, after being hailed by everyone in the Honda Center, Duck or King, Selanne told a reporter, “It’s unbelievable, so much class and respect. That’s what this game is all about.” If you are Teemu Selanne, that’s right. If you are Milan Lucic the five-year-old, not so much…. PEACE

MFAN EXTRA: The WILD’S season came to an abrupt halt vs. the Hawks on an OT winner from Patrick Kane. I’ll have a season summary next week…. OVER & OUT!  

Marc Elliott is a free lance sports opinion writer who splits time between his hometown in Illinois and Minnesota.