Mendes on NHL: Don’t blame Sutton

Andy Sutton’s post-game showdown with a Pittsburgh reporter is going to be the most watched YouTube video involving an Ottawa Senators player since Ray Emery’s white Hummer was pulled over by the OPP.

As one of the seven people who were standing in this infamous scrum, I would like to paint a picture of what actually happened on Friday night.

First of all, Andy was not in a foul or tense mood when he came out to speak with the media. In fact, he made a joke to me about the smell inside the dressing room at Mellon Arena when he walked out to meet us.

I led off the scrum and I asked two questions to him, the second of which was: “Could you walk me through the hit on Leopold and let us know what happened from your perspective?”

Sutton responded that he thought it was a clean hockey hit and he’s been doing it all season.

Fair enough, but the hit was certainly controversial and more questions were going to be asked.

Two members of the Ottawa media had follow-up questions, which Sutton answered while reiterating that he thought it was a clean hit. It was pretty clear that he had nothing else to say about the matter after the third question. He didn’t feel it was a worthy of a suspension. He didn’t feel like he targeted the head. What else could we ask him?

But because “Genie in a Bottle” rules don’t apply to NHL post-game scrums, a fourth question was granted.

And that’s when things went south.

A reporter from Pittsburgh asked: “Did you know that you got your elbow up on that hit?”

Sutton replied, “Are you asking me, or are you telling me?”

In Sutton’s defense, the question was awkwardly worded. It was more of a statement than a question; and it was a loaded one at that.

So he went back at Sutton again, when he didn’t get a response.

But the problem here is that instead of re-phrasing his question, the reporter asked the same question again, with the same intonation in his voice. Again, it didn’t sound like a question to me; it sounded like a statement.

So Sutton started his “Are you an expert?” rant and the two went back and forth in a tennis match of verbal volleys, until the Senators PR staff finally called game, set and match.

Sutton might have come out of that scrum looking like an unapologetic, nasty and sarcastic man who eats journalists for lunch. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. He initially answered the questions about the hit with no issues. The scrum only turned sour when the reporter turned it in that direction.

Upon reviewing the replay in my hotel room, it was a good, clean hockey hit. It’s not Andy Sutton’s job to make sure Jordan Leopold has his head up coming through the neutral zone. It’s not Sutton’s fault that he’s six inches taller, either. So naturally, his point of contact is going to be higher on Leopold when he has his head down.

And because this was a “north-south” hit, there was no blind-side element that is even up for debate. Leopold was the puck-carrier as well. Every mitigating factor is in Sutton’s favour on this one.

Penguins fans shouldn’t hold their breath waiting for discipline from the NHL.

The only video I suggest Colin Campbell watch is Sutton’s scrum with the media – it’s pretty entertaining.

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