I want to commend the NHL for finally admitting they were wrong and for proving what we have been saying for the last several seasons, the disciplinary program is flawed.
The 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs have been stained by the bad blood of cheap shots and dangerous violent attacks. Instead of enjoying eight really good hockey series, our attention has been turned to who is getting suspended and who is not.
I don’t ever remember a spring like this. It seems like every night another player loses their cool and reverts to barbaric antics as a form of revenge. The NHL appears to have lost itself and only has itself to blame.
On Saturday the NHL announced that Raffi Torres would be suspended for 25 games because of the vicious hit he laid upon a defenseless Marian Hossa. While I think the punishment fits the crime, especially for a player with the track record of Torres, I do think it comes across as a “make-up” call.
The league has repeatedly turned a blind eye to so many infractions that any type of disciplinary action is news. The biggest issue I have with the Torres ban is that it can be argued that his hit on Hossa is no more dangerous or premeditated than say that of the pounding Shea Weber gave Henrik Zetterberg or the two dirty plays on the same shift for Penguins forward James Neal.
In Weber’s situation, he clearly intended to hurt Zetterberg at the end of a game that was already decided. I mean he actaully grabbed Zetterberg’s neck and smashed his face into the glass. That was no accident.
What about Neal and his blatant elbow to the head of recently concussed Claude Giroux after having already launched himself into rookie Sean Couturier a few minutes earlier?
If you are aiming for the head of a man with a history of head injuries than you are clearly attempting to cause a great deal of physical harm. How could the league let that go with a mere one-game suspension?
How about Arron Asham on Brayden Schenn?
Schenn hit Penguins defenseman Paul Martin in the chest with his left shoulder, an obviously clean hit. Schenn had no intention of injuring Martin and he certainly was not aiming for the head, but he was given a penalty for charging.
Asham wasn’t satisfied with the power play for his team. He went after Schenn and delivered a cross-check to the chest, following through towards Schenn’s head and hitting him in the throat. Asham received a five-minute major and match penalty and received a four-game suspension.
My question is, how is that any worse than what Weber or Neal did? Conspiracy theorist have their own opinion as to why perceived star players appear to be escaping the heavy hand of Sir Shannaban.
I myself believe the NHL has reached a critical point in the discipline process. It’s about time they develop a clear and concise suspension policy with minimum automatic suspensions for certain violations. They should implement a punishment program for on-ice officials that miss flagrant violations or allow a game to get away from them by swallowing the whistle and they should fire Brendan Shanahan.
I certainly don’t want the ebb and flow of the game disrupted by penalty after penalty but once tempers flare and the nature of the penalties turn violent than action must be immediate and swift by the referees.
It’s OK to toss instigators out of a game, it won’t hurt the game in the slightest.
Much of the shenanigans that took place in the late season game between Philadelphia an Pittsburgh could have been avoided if certain players had been sent to the locker room instead of allowed to remain on the ice.
This first-round of the Stanley Cup playoffs has to be an eye-opener for NHL officials. Perhaps the Torres suspension will have players thinking twice before attempting to maim an opposing player. Unfortunately, that will only go so far and last so long.
The NHL must be steadfast in their attempt to regain control of the game. If they let just one unnecessary act slide than they open themselves up for yet another outbreak of violence and unsportsmanlike conduct.
I still think hockey players are the classiest athletes in professional sports, but even I’m starting to doubt that and I’m a loyal hockey enthusiast. If I feel that way, imagine how the casual fan must feel?
I’m not sure that’s the what the NHL anticipated when they cam up with the “Because It’s the Cup” ad campaign.
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