When Rangers enforcer Dylan McIlrath came to the defense of team mate Derek Stepan on Friday after he was pasted by Boston’s Matt Belesky, there were many instigator rule haters waiting in the wings. As Stepan lay folded in half with broken ribs, McIlrath essentially jumped Belesky and laid a few good punches. The cries of “dirty hit” and “serves him right” were followed with outrage at the fact that McIlrath was tagged with an extra two minutes plus an automatic 10 minute misconduct for the notorious instigator penalty. The point I brought up in Why The Instigator Rule has Its Place that no else seemed to care about was that so called dirty and late hit by Belesky wasn’t a penalty at all. There was no penalty issued because there was nothing wrong with the hit. We can’t just have it acceptable that any hit, especially a clean one, can be retaliated every time with a fight.
24 hours later, the Rangers Dylan McIlrath proved my point exactly. In today’s game against the Philadelphia Flyers McIlrath delivered a massive and, more importantly, clean blow to Philadelphia’s Nick Schultz. Luke Schenn took exception and ran over to drop the mitts with McIlrath. Naturally, Schenn was assessed an extra two minute minor and automatic 10 minutes for being the instigator. The same McIlrath supporters who want the instigator rule abolished don’t seem to have any problem with Schenn’s extra minutes, and why? Because this was a clean hit. So instead of being a hypocrite, accept the fact that even though you think Belesky’s hit was dirty, the referee did not and Belesky was never given an original penalty. Therefore the ref had no choice but to give the extra for what amounts to an assault on an innocent man. I get the protector thing and if someone wants to take a clean but solid shot at my star I have no problem with someone fighting the guy anyway even knowing he’ll get the extra two because that penalty is an investment. But I’d also want something in place to protect my players who throw hard hits and then are forced into a fight for simply winning a battle. If my guy did nothing wrong and ended up in the box with five minutes for self defence, there’d better be a power play out of it.
I REPEAT: THE INSTIGATOR PENALTY HAS ITS PLACE.