There was a bit of an incident at the end of Friday's afternoon game between the New York Rangers and the Boston Bruins, and we may finally have a better idea of exactly what went down.
It was a convincing win for the Rangers but in the dying seconds of the game's 3rd period there was a bit of a scrum between the 2 teams thanks in large part to a trip from Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy. McAvoy tripped up Rangers forward Kevin Rooney with about as blatant a trip as you're ever going to see, leading to the two sides coming together.
Hard to blame the Rangers for getting upset here, the Bruins were out of the game at this point and the penalty from McAvoy looked to have been entirely deliberate, almost as if he wanted to provoke this exact reaction.
It was during that scrum on the ice that Bruins forward Brad Marchand and Rangers forward Artemi Panarin had their little faceoff, although they did it from the comfort of the bench. Both men stood at the end of their respective benches trading verbal jabs back and forth and at one point Marchand said something that got under Panarin's skin. The Rangers forward took off his glove and proceeded to toss it at the Bruins agitator, hitting him square in the chest with it.
After the game Marchand gave his version of events, claiming that it had only been a little harmless banter between the 2 National Hockey League stars, but now an NHL insider is reporting a different version of events. New York Islanders insider Arthur Staple wasn't able to get a player to go on the record about what had been said, but a source informed him that it had been comments about Panarin's home country of Russia that prompted him to throw the glove.
According to a source, Marchand made some Russian-centric comments toward Panarin — along the lines of “no one likes you there” while bringing up Russian President Vladimir Putin, of whom Panarin has been critical in the past. Panarin clearly had enough. Those don’t seem like fine-worthy comments, but they might not sit well with the league.
I have to agree with Staple here that I don't think the comments cross the line into a fine. The comments are about Russia, but they aren't xenophobic in any way and are instead personal in nature.
That being said Panarin famously had to take a leave of absence from the Rangers earlier this year when a tabloid published what many now believe was a propaganda hit piece on the Russian forward. There are legitimate questions about whether or not the league would want an issue as serious as that to be joked about on the ice, especially in a derogatory fashion, and especially when it involves one of their star players.
So far there has been no indication that the league intends to act on this matter.