A little sportsmanship is sometimes too much to ask

As I mentioned on this page the other day, this is the best tradition in sports. Sportsmanship at the end of a tough playoff series.

If only it were true, apparently.

The big controversy in the NHL after the dastardly Montreal Canadiens defeated the Boston Bruins was that during the handshakes, one of Boston’s goons kept threatening to “kill” members of the Canadiens.

“What’s stunning isn’t that this happened,” Sports Illustrated’s Allan Muir writes today, “but that it doesn’t happen more often.”

We talk about the level of sportsmanship displayed in one of hockey’s greatest traditions, but we don’t appreciate how much it takes for a fierce competitor to tamp down his emotions moments after watching his Stanley Cup dreams die.

Feisty goalie Battlin’ Billy Smith of the dynastic Islanders famously refused to participate in the ritual at all, calling it hypocritical. In 2008, Martin Brodeur snubbed his chippy nemesis, Sean Avery, after being vanquished by the Rangers. Sidney Crosby took heat for being late to the line after the 2009 Cup final, and he was on the winning side.”