A contrite Pavel Kubina made it sound as though he wouldn't hurt a fly.
Unfortunately, that's what he did, right in front of the TV cameras with a crosscheck to the exposed neck of 5-foot-9 Detroit Red Wing Jiri Hudler. Kubina will sit out tonight's home opener against the Ottawa Senators, amid muted grumbling from the Maple Leafs about the consistency of league discipline.
It was a week ago Sunday they lost promising defenceman Brendan Bell for a few weeks when Senators' Dany Heatley took a vicious whack at his ankle. There was no penalty and Heatley received a warning from the National Hockey League. But Kubina, who is 6-foot-4 and chose an unpadded area to strike Hudler, was tossed out of the Wings game and tonight's, the first time he has been disciplined in eight NHL seasons.
"Frustrating," Leafs general manager John Ferguson said yesterday, choosing his words carefully lest he get a fine in the Pat Quinn tradition.
Ferguson did agree the David vs. Goliath optics on the play weren't in Kubina's favour.
Kubina is no doubt steamed that Hudler played the next shift while Bell still is out.
"I can't comment, that's up to the league," Kubina said. "He's a short guy and I just shoved him. If he'd been taller, it might have made a difference.
"I've never had a suspension, but I'm more upset with myself. I should be more careful with my actions. I was excited to play in my first game, in front of all the home fans."
Instead of replacing Kubina with seventh defenceman Jay Harrison, which would have been a thrill for the Oshawa native after four seasons of minor-league toil, coach Paul Maurice is calling on Wade Belak, who had been used as a winger through camp.
"You just have to bide your time," an upbeat Harrison said. "The first year I went to the world junior tournament, I was the seventh defenceman (as he was last year on opening night with the Marlies), so the role is not new to me."