For 30 minutes a crowd of reporters and cameramen stood in front of the white board in the Capitals locker room at CONSOL Energy Center. Numerous players entered the room and went to their stalls after Washington’s morning skate on Monday, but the assembled media stayed right where they were, waiting for Brooks Orpik to address the three game suspension levied by the NHL for his late hit to the head on Olli Maatta. Finally, after everyone else was already off the ice, Orpik walked into room, took off his equipment, and walked in front of the lights. While the rest of Capitals defended Orpik or refused to comment earlier, the offender made no excuses.
“I think it was fair,” Orpik said of the punishment given to him by the league’s Department of Player Safety. “It was a bad hit. It was intended to be a hard hit, definitely not at his head, but I don’t think there is anything that you can argue that it was definitely late. I think that was pretty black and white. I said that during my hearing yesterday.”
After Saturday’s game, Capitals head coach Barry Trotz defended the hit by saying Orpik thought the puck was coming back to Maatta, despite the fact the last two people to touch the puck were Capitals players. Orpik, however, did not provide that defense — or really any defense of his hit at all.
“I think we made a point before the game and before the series to be hard on their guys, especially their defensemen,” said Orpik. “That’s what I tried to do and made a pretty bad mistake with how late it was. That’s about all I got. It was a bad decision. It was late.”
When asked how he rationalized the hit to the NHL, Orpik said “there wasn’t much arguing.” The Capitals defenseman added that he talked to Maatta, his friend from his time in Pittsburgh, after the game and that he “was in a similar spot two weeks ago” when he missed three games after getting his head slammed into the glass in Philadelphia.
“I obviously told them there was no intent there and there was no denying it was late,” Orpik said of his comments to the league. “That’s pretty much all there was to it. That was the end result. I didn’t really know what to expect out of how many games; whatever they gave me was something I was just going to have to accept. That’s what we’re going to do moving forward here and hopefully across the league they start punishing everything else the same way.”
Trotz, however, took a completely different tone when speaking to reporters just a few minutes after Orpik, insinuating that the league had a bias towards the Penguins.
“I’m disappointed, but I’m not surprised based on who we’re playing and all that,” Trotz said of the suspension.
When asked to elaborate on what he meant by those comments, Trotz offered a one sentence reply: “Take it for whatever you want.”
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