VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) — The Los Angeles Kings say they're sorry.
One day after opening their playoff series against the Vancouver Canucks with a 4-2 victory, the Kings found themselves backtracking from a playful jab on Twitter. The team's official account posted a message saying: "To everyone in Canada outside of BC, you're welcome."
That didn't sit well with senior members of the organization, especially after all the attention it generated.
"We encourage our digital team to be creative, interactive and to apply a sense of humor whenever possible," Kings spokesman Mike Altieri said. "To anyone who found it offensive we sincerely apologize."
The Canucks have drawn criticism the last few seasons in which they captured the Presidents' Trophy in back-to-back years and fell one game short of the Stanley Cup in 2011.
In October, CBC commentator Don Cherry added to the chorus by saying Vancouver was disliked because the players whine at officials.
The team had the best record in the NHL this season and entered the series with Los Angeles a heavy favorite. Game 2 is Friday night in Vancouver.
The Canucks will be without forward Byron Bitz, who was suspended for two games by NHL on Thursday for boarding Kings forward Kyle Clifford during Game 1.
The hit happened at 12:12 of the second period Wednesday night, and Bitz was given a major penalty and a game misconduct. Clifford stayed on the bench for a while, then left the game and did not return. The Kings scored on the ensuing power play and won 4-2.
"I had no intention of hurting anybody," Bitz said. "That's not the way I play. It was an unfortunate play. The referees made the call, and it cost my team a goal — so it's my fault."
Bitz offered an excuse which has been heard often from players who have faced disciplinary actions on hits to the head.
"I just went to finish my hit," Bitz said. "And the way I made contact, he hit the glass awkwardly. I had no intent to injure or target the head. I was just trying to finish my hit, and the referees made the call."
The hit came as Canucks winger Daniel Sedin missed his 10th straight game with a concussion suffered when he was elbowed in the head March 21 by Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith, who received a two-minute penalty. The NHL subsequently handed Keith a five-game suspension for the infraction.
Bitz's hit also came on the same day Los Angeles Kings defenseman Willie Mitchell praised the NHL for taking a tougher stance on head shots. Although he became an example of the new disciplinary angle, Bitz endorsed it.
"You can't replace your brain," he said. "You've got to protect the guys' heads. You don't want to have guys with concussion problems, and they're doing the right thing."
After the hit, Clifford went to the bench for a while, but then went to the dressing room and did not return. Los Angeles coach Darryl Sutter said Clifford will not play when the series resumes Friday in Vancouver.