James Wisniewski should face suspension for gesture

October, 11, 2010
10/11/10
4:54
PM ET
By now hockey fans, and fans of strange sports activities around the world, will have seen the video of New York Islanders defenseman James Wisniewski making what appear to be profane gestures to New York Rangers forward Sean Avery during Monday's matinee contest on Long Island.

It's possible that Wisniewski was motioning to Avery that the microphone wasn't working in the press box at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

Or he might have been trying to warn Avery that the truculent Rangers forward had some spinach stuck in his teeth from the pregame meal.

Or he might have been suggesting the two meet for some karaoke after the game.

Or ... well ... we can pretty much figure out what Wisniewski was suggesting to Avery with his gestures. It wasn't particularly PG, and certainly not the kind of thing the NHL is going to be very happy about being played out in front of thousands of fans in attendance and then viewed by literally hundreds of thousands of people on the Internet.

"When are these players going to figure it out? We do have cameras at games," a league source told ESPN.com.

Now, the one good thing is that the game was on Long Island, so the direct exposure to real, live fans was muted (announced attendance was 11,748), although it was probably bad luck for the Islanders that NHL commissioner Gary Bettman was among those in attendance.

"I didn't see [the gesture], but I heard about it, and my guess is hockey operations will do what they think needs to be done, if anything," Bettman was quoted as telling reporters via AOL FanHouse. "But from where I was sitting, I couldn't see it."

There's little doubt in our minds that the heavy hand of NHL law will come pounding down on Wisniewski for his performance art.

Before the season started, Chicago defenseman Nick Boynton was suspended for a regular-season game after making a throat-slashing gesture during a preseason game against Tampa. Players have been suspended for various gestures to other players and fans in the past, as well.

And then there's Avery himself. He set the bar for inappropriate two seasons ago, when he was suspended for six games after making a comment about the girlfriend of then-Calgary defenseman Dion Phaneuf. The suspension was actually the culmination of a series of transgressions that included a vile diatribe against a fan in Boston a month earlier.

Newsday's Steve Zipay quoted Avery after the game as saying he didn't think the league would act on the gestures. "Imagine if I did that? They'd send me to rehab," Zipay quoted Avery as saying.

That's a pretty good line given Avery had to go through anger-management counseling before he could return to the NHL, but we don't agree with Avery's assessment. Even though Wisniewski's actions were between two players, we're guessing that unless he can come up with a pretty inventive explanation for NHL lord of discipline Colin Campbell, Wisniewski will watch a couple of games from the press box.

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