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Neal admits kneeing Marchand was ‘not the smartest decision’

Dec 10, 2013, 1:36 PM EDT

Pittsburgh Penguins v Boston Bruins Getty Images

Now that James Neal has had his hearing with the NHL and been suspended five games, he can finally admit it — kneeing Brad Marchand in the head was “not the smartest decision I’ve ever made.”

That quote comes courtesy Dave Molinari of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, who also has Neal saying there was “no intent to injure” Marchand and there’s “really no excuse for” what happened.

Neal, of course, was a little less forthright in the immediate aftermath of Saturday’s emotional game, which saw lines crossed by both his Penguins and their less-than-cordial hosts, the Boston Bruins.

“I haven’t, like, seen the replay or anything, so I mean I hit him in the head with my leg or my foot or my knee or shin area,” Neal said, per Yahoo! Sports. “I don’t know. But I mean, he’s already going down, and I guess I need to try to avoid him, but I have to look at it again.”

When pressed, Neal added: “I mean, what do you want me to say? That I was trying to hit him? No, I’m going by him. I don’t get out of the way, like I said. I need to be more careful and I guess get my knee out of the way, but I’m not trying to hit him in the head or injure him or anything like that.”

The problem many will have with Neal’s “not the smartest decision” admission is that he’s made other not-so-smart decisions in the past. So, will this latest punishment — which comes with the forfeiture of $128,205.15 in salary — help keep his emotions in check?

We’ll start to find out on Dec. 19, when Neal’s eligible to return from his suspension versus Minnesota. But the real test will be when the playoffs begin and the temperature of the games goes up.

  1. dropthepuckeh - Dec 10, 2013 at 1:39 PM

    Gutless punk. It will catch up to him…

    • hockey412 - Dec 10, 2013 at 1:51 PM

      When and how – if there is such a thing as “answering the bell” then I’m ALL FOR IT in this case. Illegal, gutless move and he should have to answer. Not for clean hits, but in this case, yeah – Neal needed his bell rung, or at least the offer extended and some harder hits sent his way.

      But he played the whole game and no one even approached him. No one hit him. Actually he scored right after the penalty. So the games over, he’s been punished, and Marchand’s ok. Why on earth would it catch up to him NOW?

      If you are talking about general Karma, ok gotcha…but it could have been Kharma smacking Marchand in the head, too.

      • jpelle82 - Dec 10, 2013 at 3:04 PM

        i would love to see marchand actually stand up for himself in this one and fight neal. a slewfoot or a lowbridge is more likely though. he shouldve gotten after neal in the game saturday, doubt it will carry over into the playoffs if they meet. might have to wait til next year to see what happens if anything

      • hockeyflow33 - Dec 10, 2013 at 4:41 PM

        The Bruins were already down 2 forwards

      • hockey412 - Dec 11, 2013 at 8:45 AM

        You’re saying that Orpik should have taken the Bruins being down 2 forwards into account before deciding to legally check a player?

      • hockeyflow33 - Dec 11, 2013 at 4:58 PM

        In what world do you live in that a player can be checked without touching the puck and it not being near him?

    • toiletclown - Dec 11, 2013 at 6:46 AM

      i wish his head would have detached from his neck

  2. myroncopesflask - Dec 10, 2013 at 1:41 PM

    Translation= I’m sorry I got caught; next time will not happen in open ice!

  3. snipedanglecelly13 - Dec 10, 2013 at 1:41 PM

    Who would do something like that in the first place?!?! Only the pens

    • c9castine - Dec 10, 2013 at 1:46 PM

      Only the pens? Really? Only ones? Yeah we are the only team that had a suspension for dirty play this year.

      • ibieiniid - Dec 10, 2013 at 1:52 PM

        lol you know I’m not a Pens fan, but I was about to start a comment in almost the exact same way.

      • myroncopesflask - Dec 10, 2013 at 3:31 PM

        So it’s not possible that Neal’s knee was not a response to something Marchand had done earlier in the game, seaon, or last years playoffs? Not saying Neal is an angel but you have to look the bigger picture.

    • jjregan21 - Dec 10, 2013 at 1:50 PM

      Not that it justifies his actions, but I’d bet money Marchand would have done the same if it was Neal on the ice.

    • hockey412 - Dec 10, 2013 at 1:55 PM

      That’s actually not true…Marchand, Skinner, Subban, Lucic, a lot of those guys do some pretty horrible things behind the play – don’t act like it’s only Neal. It’s horrible, but there’s a lot of that crap. I’m sure your team is made up of mostly Hare Krishnas?

      • flyerspsu - Dec 10, 2013 at 3:53 PM

        except Neal has 3 times as many suspensions as any of them

      • hockey412 - Dec 11, 2013 at 8:51 AM

        Certainly don’t blame Flyers fans for not liking Neal after his “charge” on Giroux and leveling Courturier. But Flyers fans reaaaaaaalllly shouldn’t be talking about any of this. You’re team is still very dirty. What Emery did is no better than Thornton. Rinaldo is the living embodyment of a turd. Giroux has a suspension history, as does Schenn. Hell Giroux was suspended for a vicious headshot on Zubrus which was NOTHING more than a temper tantrum!!!! WHO DOES THAT?

      • ibieiniid - Dec 10, 2013 at 4:01 PM

        careful flyers, I just chalked it up as a W that he didn’t mention any of our boys. duly noted 412, duly noted.

      • hockey412 - Dec 11, 2013 at 8:45 AM


      • Moop - Dec 10, 2013 at 5:28 PM

        I’m a Bruins fan and while some of these comments saying Marchand would have been the first to knee someone in the head if the roles were reversed are plain wrong, Marchand steps over the line a bit too often for my liking and he will get what’s coming to him one day.

      • c9castine - Dec 11, 2013 at 12:16 AM

        yeah our beef isn’t with the flyers on this one. i almost feel some strange connection to you guys right now. wonder why that is.

      • ibieiniid - Dec 11, 2013 at 8:50 AM

        TOO LATE 412, YOU ALREADY DIDN’T INCLUDE A FLYER. still noted.

        but ya, when a game like the Pens/Bruins one happened and they’re both contenders, it’s tough to really feud with a team that’s quite a ways behind. Boston is your “interim rivalry” while the Flyers collect themselves I think.

    • thephilbittner - Dec 10, 2013 at 9:00 PM

      Yeah the Pens are totally known for cheapshots huh? The Bruins would never commit such an act. Thornton going after Orpik immediately after this was pretty vlassy huh? Dumbass

  4. ibieiniid - Dec 10, 2013 at 1:42 PM

    smaller story on that twitter feed, Malkin not practicing today?

    • c9castine - Dec 10, 2013 at 1:48 PM

      One of bylsmas “maintenance days” I’m sure just missed two games probably taking it easy for a week or two.

      • ibieiniid - Dec 10, 2013 at 1:51 PM

        ah ok. thought PHT missed one.

    • joey4id - Dec 10, 2013 at 2:09 PM

      Yeah! That coast to coast goal he scored last night took its toll. :-) He’s on IV and oxygen today.

  5. sjsharks66 - Dec 10, 2013 at 1:44 PM

    I read somewhere that Shero may keep Neal out of the game for having such a terrible answer when asked about the knee. Basically punishment for not manning up and saying what he did.

    I hope Shero does this. Neal is a young offensive force with a bright future. He needs to cut this cheap shot habit of his. It does not help his team and does not help his career.

    • ibieiniid - Dec 10, 2013 at 1:52 PM

      what, past his suspension, you mean?

    • joey4id - Dec 10, 2013 at 2:10 PM

      Was that a story out of Boston?

  6. slaugin - Dec 10, 2013 at 1:44 PM

    Translation – Shanahan said to say I’m sorry

    • c9castine - Dec 10, 2013 at 1:49 PM

      What you think the pens management is happy about this situation

  7. steelers88 - Dec 10, 2013 at 1:47 PM

    Malkin had a maintenance day.

    • ibieiniid - Dec 10, 2013 at 1:53 PM


  8. skr213 - Dec 10, 2013 at 1:48 PM

    There was no “decision” if it was truly an accident, like he originally claimed. So is he now admitting that he was a lying little punk when he tried to say it was an accident?

    • Tyler - Dec 10, 2013 at 4:11 PM


  9. steelers88 - Dec 10, 2013 at 1:48 PM

    What more do you guys want! He apologized you got what you wanted. Now you don’t except it!

    • jpelle82 - Dec 10, 2013 at 3:12 PM

      accept…thats twice today and i couldnt let it go this time.

      • ibieiniid - Dec 10, 2013 at 4:06 PM

        lmao yes!

        accept – verb
        except – preposition
        affect – verb
        effect – noun
        (in most cases)

        yeah, I can see why people mix those up though.

    • kovodisc - Dec 11, 2013 at 7:44 PM

      Maybe because it’s the farthest thing from a genuine apology you could ever get! He’s apologizing because he got caught and was suspended. After the game he said he didn’t mean to even touch Marchand….now, after the fact, it was a bad “decision” meaning he made a conscious choice. Had he apologized after the game and not made those comments – different story (maybe ;))

  10. chanceoffleury - Dec 10, 2013 at 1:51 PM

    Yeah those comments don’t smell of having a sit down with management or anything. Seems like he’s just trying to save face and cover his butt at this point. I hope it really does change him, though. He needs to realize he is a damn good hockey player that the Pens benefit from having on the ice every second of every single shift he is assigned over the next 5 years. He isn’t much help from the box. You’ve got a long way to go to earn my respect back, Mr. Neal! And I think I speak for many when I say that. An apology was a good place to start, though, even if it did come off as a bit……forced.

    • ibieiniid - Dec 10, 2013 at 1:54 PM

      chanceoffleury, one of the good ones.

    • joey4id - Dec 10, 2013 at 2:17 PM

      I seriously doubt that Neal didn’t get a face to face with Shero. We all know things happen in the heat of the game, but what Neal did is unacceptable on 2 levels, 1) could have caused serious injury 2) his absence will hurt the team. His offensive productivity has been good since returning to play.

  11. steelers88 - Dec 10, 2013 at 1:53 PM

    I heard the same thing. Now I also heard today that Byslma is not happy with Neal either. In your opinion do you think they would actually consider trading Neal at the trade deadline? Because it seems to me that his fallen out if favor in the Penguins organization.

    • chanceoffleury - Dec 10, 2013 at 2:04 PM

      Personally I think a snowball has a better chance in hell than James Neal getting traded at the deadline. That is unless he asks for a trade or blows up at management in a meeting or something crazy like that. As mad as they may be at him right now, they aren’t mad about how much they’re paying him when he isnt’ doing crap like this. They have got one of the sweeter deals in the NHL with James Neal. 5mill a year for somebody that was on a 100+ point pace until Saturday and hasn’t even hit his stride yet……..and they’ve got him for 5 more years at that price. Look at how hard it has been for them to find guys for Malkin to play with. To just throw something like James Neal into the wind would be a horrible move by Shero. Unless their name was Jamie Benn, Patrice Bergeron, or Bobby Ryan the Pens would never be able to get trade value for a guy like Neal. They’ll probably beat him into the ground with interventions for his reform before they trade him.

      • chanceoffleury - Dec 10, 2013 at 2:07 PM

        I feel I should clarify, “if he had started at the beginning of the season,” he would have been on a 100+ point pace on Saturday. Not saying he would have done it, either. In fact, I’m confident he wouldn’t have. But to have a guy that has the potential to streak at extended periods of time with numbers like that at only 5 million a year is a great deal!

      • jpelle82 - Dec 10, 2013 at 3:17 PM

        they didnt trade cooke, they just stripped him of his A and rehabbed him the best they could until his contract ran out. neal might be looking at the same fate minus the A being stripped of course. would be a shame if he cant turn it around, its a once in a lifetime opportunity to get to play with a guy like malkin, there are guys that would kill to have that opportunity and neal is just spitting in the face of all of them

    • goalieguy37 - Dec 10, 2013 at 3:13 PM

      with all due respect to his cleaned up game, If they kept cooke around as long as they did with his on ice antics, you really think they’ll do that with someone who fills the net more often?

  12. micasa81 - Dec 10, 2013 at 1:53 PM

    Key word: “decision”. Basically confirming that you were lying when you said it wasn’t intentional. And not exactly a gushing apology now. The act is certainly the most important thing in these incidents, but the ensuing response from the offender certainly affects their reputation as well. Neal blew his chance to convince anyone he’s going to try to change his ways.

  13. steelpenbucs87 - Dec 10, 2013 at 1:55 PM

    Good Lord – look if you don’t like the guy, and you’re not sorry, that’s one thing. Its a miserable and despicable thing, but at least its the truth. This sort of half-hearted “I didn’t mean to hurt him” thing is so asinine. Just come out and say, “Marchand and I have had some bad blood in the past and my emotions go the best of me. It was a stupid thing to do, I regret doing it, I’m glad Marchand wasn’t hurt but that’s no excuse. I will try to do a better job of controlling my emotions on the ice or else my 40-goal scoring potential will be nothing but a waste.” (That last part might be more of me speaking and less him but whatever). As gross as what Thornton did to Orpik you do have to respect the guy for owning it immediately.

    • kovodisc - Dec 11, 2013 at 7:46 PM

      One of the best posts i’ve read regarding this situation

  14. sjsharks66 - Dec 10, 2013 at 1:58 PM

    Steelers, no way would they trade him. They have a top 6 guy in Neal. I think they are going to give him the Cooke talk. As in, you mess up again, you are gone.

    • ibieiniid - Dec 10, 2013 at 2:08 PM

      then again, there’s a chance he already got that talk. this isn’t his first time watching from the upper decks.

  15. steelers88 - Dec 10, 2013 at 2:01 PM

    I find it funny how everyone is ripping James Neal! Like ripping Neal is going to make his suspension or going to change the outcome of the 1ST PD.

    • sens101 - Dec 10, 2013 at 2:43 PM

      Of course hes getting ripped…that was a douche move by him. I agree with SteelPenBuck87…at least Shawn Thornton owned what he did immediately. He was sincere. James Neal had an opportunity to do the same and gave the worst explanation possible. He def needs to grow up to turn in the the player that he has the potential to be.

      • myroncopesflask - Dec 10, 2013 at 3:46 PM

        Maybe he isn’t sorry for doing it and plans on doing it again?

      • walleye9000 - Dec 10, 2013 at 8:42 PM

        Thorton had to own up to what he did immediately! I mean what else could he say. I did not mean to slew foot him to the ground and pummel him unconscious.

      • sens101 - Dec 11, 2013 at 9:24 AM

        Walleye9000…I guess im referring to the sincerity of the apology rather than the bs explanation and apology given by Neal. It seems forced, like when a mother tells her five year old son to apologize to a kid on the playground….Anyway hes an awesome player but seems like a classless douche imo..

  16. steelers88 - Dec 10, 2013 at 2:06 PM

    I hope they don’t trade him. He is one of my favorite Penguins and I would hate to see him go. I hope Neal can turn his game around because his a great goal scorer and he needs to be on the ice not off the ice.

  17. hockeykrishna - Dec 10, 2013 at 2:06 PM

    OK, simple solution, Thornton, Neal, Steel Cage, one folding chair, Fabulous Moola, and some fake blood.

    Frankly it stinks that a great sport is held hostage to these despicable acts by two players that are completely unnecessary. I do find it makes me mad that Neal was a deliberate act, and Thornton, if you believe him, lost it. Neither is acceptable though.

    The good news is that we are gaining fans from NASCAR……. SMH

  18. 19to77 - Dec 10, 2013 at 2:13 PM

    Wow. Really unimpressed with that evasive, wishy-washy answer. Sounds more like he’s sorry he got punished than for doing it in the first place. Sounds like a guy who’s just angry there were consequences for his actions. Petulant.

  19. steelers88 - Dec 10, 2013 at 2:20 PM

    Neal needs to grow up his to immature. I mean really Neal kneeing someone in the head when there down? That’s something a 5 year old would do. Right now I’m pissed at Neal he is hurting the Penguins more by being suspended.

  20. steelers88 - Dec 10, 2013 at 2:34 PM

    I also think that Malkin has to grow up a little bit. Malkin let’s players get under his skin under to easily that leads to him to taking stupid penalties that sometimes ends up the team. I also blame Byslma his to much of a players coach. He needs to be more firm with his players. Not buddy buddy.

    • hazlydose - Dec 10, 2013 at 4:36 PM

      Excellent point. Too often when the pens are losing or frustrated the Malkin-Neal combo goes from a pair of scoring dynamos to a who is going to take the first stupid penalty contest.

  21. montrealbbr - Dec 10, 2013 at 2:52 PM

    I wish Neal was skating full speed when that piece of boston garbage dove in front of him. I feel bad that he got suspended when he barely even touched him.

    • hockeykrishna - Dec 10, 2013 at 3:04 PM

      Go troll “”……….

    • drewzducks - Dec 10, 2013 at 4:52 PM

      More insecurity and stupidity echoing down from North Mexico.

  22. hosewater2 - Dec 10, 2013 at 2:53 PM

    The rest of the NHL disagrees with you James Neal, in fact some people are still applauding.

  23. psousa1 - Dec 10, 2013 at 3:09 PM

    Well it’s Pittsburgh. The most cowardly team in the league. They have been for the past few years and will be for the next few years.

  24. thomasvanek - Dec 10, 2013 at 3:13 PM

    Key word= decision

  25. toiletclown - Dec 10, 2013 at 3:19 PM

    neal should have hit him harder to knock his head off. game would be alot better without marchand in it

    • drewzducks - Dec 10, 2013 at 4:54 PM

      Cute name. You managed to combine your profession AND where you were conceived.

      • toiletclown - Dec 11, 2013 at 6:43 AM

        its not my fault that the bruins roster is full of criminals that need to be thrown in jail. disgrace to the game

  26. myroncopesflask - Dec 10, 2013 at 3:21 PM

    Wonder how many “Atta Boy” and “Bout Time” texts Neal had on his phone from other players by the time the game was finished. I have a feeling that outside of his locker room Marchand is not looked at with much respect. Not saying what he did was right or legal… It was very wrong but it will not be the last time Marchand gets hit when he is down… dude is as shady as they come.

  27. iowa02 - Dec 10, 2013 at 4:20 PM

    Yeah, the hit of course was going to be talked about by it is the aftermath that is killing him right now. There was just nothing there compared to Thornton. Thornton was clearly upset at himself. It was one of those situations were you do before you think and the outcome is not a pretty one. Neal just came across as a jerk of the highest order. The Penguins are having a bit of a PR crisis already. Sure stories are getting hits and comments but for an organization the NHL is trying the promote to bring in new fans, they players are not really helping the cause. The League is in the news for all the wrong reasons.

    OT: Is Neal a contender for Team Canada. If so, what are his chances now.

  28. puckyouall - Dec 10, 2013 at 4:24 PM

    The league needs to look at suspending Marchand for trying to take out Neal’s knee with his head.

  29. nhstateline - Dec 10, 2013 at 6:16 PM

    so what’s Mario’s position on kneeing in the game or are we going to have to wait until somebody knees Sid to hear it just like we did with his head shot position. As for Marchand, dirty stuff comes with the way he plays. You dish it out, you have to take it and all that.

    • bruininnh1984 - Dec 10, 2013 at 7:04 PM

      it’s pretty clear what mario’s position is on kneeing, as long as it doesn’t affect one of his own, keep it coming. only difference is, i think he’s more readily accepting of knee on knee hits as opposed to knee to head hits

  30. claysbar - Dec 10, 2013 at 7:31 PM

    Send a message to Neal? As a Pens fan, ownership needs to scratch him for 10 more games after he comes back from suspension. With pay, send the message that “we” still have two compliance buyouts to use and if “we” buy you out, good luck on your career.

    • kastout11 - Dec 11, 2013 at 10:37 AM

      The Pens will not send a message, they are a gutless organization. They did not send a message to Cook during all the nonsense that he has done over the years, they won’t do anything to Neal either.

  31. kastout11 - Dec 11, 2013 at 10:35 AM

    The knee was not intentional. Come on, the video does not lie. Plain and simple, it was a dirty play. Even Pens fans have to agree, although one heck of a scorer, he has always been and will always be a dirty undisciplined player.

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