ST. PETERSBURG, FLA. -- Martin Havlat says he's not an animal -- he didn't mean to hurt Hal Gill when he kicked him in the groin last Saturday night.
Havlat, who will begin serving a five-game suspension on Friday, believes the NHL had already decided on his punishment before a 15-minute phone hearing on Monday.
"I don't think there was anything I could have said that would have changed their minds because they were already made up on what they were going to give me," said Havlat. "I think they looked at my past record and decided they were going to give me five games right after it happened. There wasn't really much I could say to have anything different happen."
Havlat, 24, was suspended for two games in 2003-04 for kicking Islanders defenceman Eric Cairns and two for a high stick on Philadelphia's Mark Recchi.
Havlat says the kick was a reaction because he was getting roughed up by the towering Boston defenceman.
"I just want everybody to know that I wasn't trying to hurt anybody and I've never tried to hurt anybody when I've played hockey," said Havlat. "People should know that about me. I'm not that type of player," said Havlat.
"Nobody has ever gotten hurt when these things happened. The players who I've had these (incidents) with have played on the next shift and they've never missed a game, but what can I do? There's nothing I can do. I'm not going to complain (about the length) of the suspension because nothing is going to change now."
Losing Havlat could also hurt the club financially if centre Mike Fisher (shoulder) is unable to play against the Lightning. If Patrick Eaves has to be called up from Binghamton, he counts against the cap because Havlat's $2.6 million (all terms US) is still on the roster.
Havlat, who will lose $66,000 in salary because of the banishment, said practising until he can return to the lineup Oct. 30 against Philadelphia will not be pleasant.
"This is not going to be fun ... not fun at all," he said. "You want to be on the ice with your teammates and not watching from the stands. I didn't mean to hurt the team by doing this either."
Havlat wasn't getting much sympathy, with Philadelphia coach Ken Hitchcock, an old foe, piping in with his thoughts.
"I only saw it for a brief moment, but considering who it was it is not surprising," said Hitchcock.