Ruutu's bite night? Expect the NHL to respond

January, 7, 2009
Jarkko Ruutu bites … apparently. The irritating Senators forward earned the league some valuable SportsCenter time by biting the hand that was face-washing him. In this case, the face-washing hand (or more precisely, the thumb) belonged to Sabres winger/fighter Andrew Peters.

The bizarre incident occurred at the 13:13 mark of the first period during Tuesday's Senators-Sabres tilt in Buffalo.

Now, to be fair, we're not absolutely, 100 percent sure Ruutu bit Peters. Not surprisingly, the always-angelic Ruutu pleaded not guilty after the game, filing a countercharge of eye-gouging against Peters.

The video evidence, however, is pretty compelling. Unless Peters has been working on his acting during his prolonged stretches on the bench (he had six shifts Tuesday), he certainly reacted like a guy who'd been bitten.

Despite Peters' vociferous on-ice complaining, referees Mike Hasenfratz and Frederick L'Ecuyer didn't penalize Ruutu. Instead, the refs tossed Peters in the box for unsportsmanlike conduct, presumably for his prolonged face-washing of Ruutu, who needed eyedrops after the skirmish.

Speaking to the attending media after the game, Peters said he held no malice toward the officials. He figured they didn't see it. But the Sabres' tough guy did expect the league to review the incident.

Yes, I think they certainly will review the incident. While I'm sure it has happened before, I don't think the league is going to be too keen on the idea of one player's biting another. In this case, I suspect the pest will have to chew on a league suspension, and in the future, I guess we'd all be wise to keep our hands away from Ruutu's mouth.

In case you were wondering, the Sabres went on to win the game 4-2. The struggling Senators, who have been spiraling toward the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings over the past several weeks, fell to 1-5-1 during the first seven games of their World Junior Championship-induced eight-game road trip. Ottawa completes its North American nightmare in Boston on Thursday before returning home Saturday to face the Rangers.

Thanks, Neil
In a related note, SportsCenter anchor and all-around nice guy Neil Everett (the Neil Diamond of sports anchors) tabbed me as an Andrew Peters look-alike during Tuesday night's broadcast. I do see a little resemblance, and I must admit, my looks have been compared to worse. Thanks, Neil. I'll see you at Barry Melrose's welcome-back party!

E.J. Hradek

Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
E.J. Hradek is a senior writer at ESPN The Magazine, joining the staff prior to its launch in 1998. He began covering hockey as a writer/editor for Hockey Illustrated in 1989.


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