NHL Bad Boys Return
February, Ray Emery can only hope, will include a lot less attention on he and his tardy ways.
And there will be other, ahem, troubled folks to watch. Or at least begin watching again.
On Thursday, Phoenix assistant coach Rick Tocchet returns to the Coyotes bench for the first time in more than two years after being targetted by Operation Slapshot just prior to the Torino Olympics. He eventually pleaded guilty to gambling felony charges.
Tocchet has paid a significant debt, and one can only hope he returns not bitterly suggesting he was wrongfully prosecuted but rather hoping to be forgiven for injuring the image of the game.
He's a good coach. Whether he'll now ever have the chance to be an NHL head coach, something he was on track to become before Operation Slapshot, will be intriguing to watch.
Two weeks after that, on Feb. 21, the Islanders are expected to welcome back enforcer Chris Simon from his 30-game suspension incurred after he stomped Pittsburgh's Jarkko Ruutu with his skate blade. Hard to say whether the 35-year-old forward will have learned any lessons this time, particularly since he's been suspended over and over and over during his long NHL career without any sense he has ever been inclined to alter his on-ice behavior.
The Isles are in a tough battle for a playoff spot, and they'd tell you Simon can make a sizeable difference, although its worth noting Ted Nolan's club made its successful, last minute charge for a post-season berth without Simon, at that time suspended for trying to separate Ryan Hollweg's head from his body.
Both Tocchet and Simon have, in different ways, stained the game, despite the fact both men have legions of supporters willing to attest to the quality of their characters.
Now they both get another chance. Don't blow it, gentlemen.