The shock and outrage the Vancouver Canucks expressed Monday night had turned into calm, rational statements by Wednesday afternoon. Remarkably, there also were words of sympathy for Marty McSorley, the Boston Bruin defenseman who was suspended for at least his team's final 23 games this season for using his stick to strike Vancouver left wing Donald Brashear in the head Monday.
The NHL on Wednesday left open the possibility of further punishment.
Brashear must avoid physical activity for three weeks because of a concussion. He did not accompany the Canucks to the Arrowhead Pond for Wednesday's game against the Mighty Ducks.
He told a Vancouver reporter Tuesday, "I don't want to talk about it now. Maybe I'll talk in a couple of days. Right now, I just need a lot of rest."
Wednesday in Anaheim, Vancouver captain Mark Messier said:
"Now is not the time to second-guess anyone's decisions. The game is the most important thing. We have to support each other and try to get the game back in good graces. I think this was an unfortunate incident. I think if everybody could rewind the incident and do it differently they would."
Of his former Edmonton Oiler teammate, Messier added, "I feel bad for Marty. He's almost like a brother to me. I hated to see it. It's just unfortunate for the game of hockey. . . . We all have to take responsibility for our actions. Marty is a stand-up guy and he'll take full responsibility for his actions."
Vancouver Coach Marc Crawford echoed Messier's comments.
"We have to show compassion for Marty McSorley," Crawford said. "The guy is going through a tough time right now. This is a pathetic situation for everybody. It certainly doesn't put the game in a good light."
Several Vancouver players voiced their opinions about the length of McSorley's suspension, but there were few sharp words. Crawford later denied the players were coached to avoid controversial statements.
"That's a pretty stiff penalty," left wing Brad May said. "I hope everybody learns from this."
Said defenseman Greg Hawgood: "It's pretty tough to have any respect for somebody who does that. It's hard to get into anyone's head. I still can't believe it happened."
Added defenseman Murray Baron: "It's the longest suspension in hockey history, so that's sending a pretty strong message."
Right wing Markus Naslund at first refused comment, but then said of the suspension: "I think it's fair. It was a dangerous act. Obviously, it's good to see 'Brash' up and walking and talking again. Still, I thought it was a real brutal thing for [McSorley] to do."
Duck captain Paul Kariya, who suffered a season-ending concussion when he was cross-checked in the jaw by Gary Suter on Feb. 1, 1998, isn't certain how best to keep the game free of such stick attacks. Kariya doesn't believe curbing fighting will have the desired impact.
"I played in college where fighting isn't allowed," said Kariya, who played for Maine. "To be honest, the most serious stick work I've ever seen was in college. There was a blatant disregard for other players. I don't know if stick incidents would go down [if fighting were banned in the NHL]. In my opinion, they would go up."
Kariya isn't in favor of police involvement, however. "We are our own entity," Kariya said, referring to the NHL. "If we can't control what goes on in games, we have serious problems. If we get the police involved, what does that say about our league?"