Florida Panthers defenceman Michael Matheson says he received death threats and other vile messages on his social media channels in the days following his hit on Vancouver Canucks star rookie Elias Pettersson.
Matheson was suspended two games for driving Pettersson into the ice after completing a body check in a game Saturday night. Matheson said he reached out to Pettersson via text message and apologized to the 19-year-old Swede.
“It wasn’t my intent and it wasn’t at all what I meant to do,” Matheson told reporters Wednesday of the play that landed Pettersson in concussion protocol. “At every level I’ve never been a malicious player or someone that goes around trying to hurt players because I expect to receive the same respect in return and that’s not what hockey’s about. … There was no point in my frame of mind where I was thinking, ‘Oh I gotta injure this guy.’”
It turns out that some seething Canucks fans didn’t think a two-game suspension was enough punishment for Matheson.
If you’ve ever sifted through a comments section you know they can often be a cesspool, as the 24-year-old Pointe-Claire, Que., native discovered when he checked social media.
“I’m trying to stay off it, but it has been very, very disappointing,” Matheson told longtime Panthers beat reporter George Richards. “To think that people could be so inhumane about something … sports were made to bring people together, to cheer on teams and have passion about their teams. I fully understand and respect that. But there are thousands of people commenting things on my social media pages — sending me death threats, wishing I would commit suicide or get cancer — that’s bringing things to a whole new level. People have even threatened my dog.”
Matheson posted a photo on Oct. 1 of his little dog, Hank, wearing a Panthers jersey. The caption read: “It’s finally October and Hank is super excited to have his jersey on…”
Certain Canucks supporters, and other hockey fans upset at the Pettersson play, began replying to that post after Saturday’s game.
Here’s a small sample of some of the replies…
“You don’t deserve this animal. You monster!”
“Your dog is ugly.”
“I feel bad for your dog.”
“[Expletive] your dog piece of [expletive].”
“Who are you kidding, you’re definitely a cat person you ginger [expletive].”
“Take your ginger [expletive] head, your demon spawn ass, and get back in your hell hole where you belong.”
Others eventually came to the defence of Hank (who our sources confirm is in fact a good boy) while simultaneously taking a shot at Matheson.
“He’s a piece of [expletive] for what he did yes but no need to hate on his dog,” one comment read.
Matheson’s only message to those posting these types of messages was: “If you’re going that far, you might want to look yourself in the mirror. I’m not going to engage in it. It’s definitely not worth it. I know not all Vancouver fans are like that. I’m sure it’s a very small percentage of hockey fans who are doing this.”
The Panthers and Canucks play each other once more this season on Jan. 13 in Vancouver.