We all know that Brendan Shanahan and the National Hockey League have trouble consistently following their own rules on fines and suspensions, so it’s not entirely surprising when they make a gaffe in this area. We’ve come to expect it for the most part.
But their decision to only fine the Dallas Stars‘ Jamie Benn, however, smacks of hypocrisy and favoritism.
When you come off the bench, as Benn did, and assault a player from behind (the Edmonton Oilers‘ Ryan Jones) who was completely defenseless and unsuspecting, you deserve to be suspended. Your actions were premeditated. This was not an accident.
You may not have intended to injure your target (Jones had trouble getting off the ice a couple minutes later but seems to be okay now), but you did intend to make a dirty hit and did not care what sort of penalty you received as a result. The game was in hand, there was less than five minutes to go and your night was done. This was dangerous and unacceptable behavior.
What is odd is that a week earlier, Shanahan suspended Taylor Hall two games for kneeing the Minnesota Wild‘s Cal Clutterbuck. Part of his rationale was the following phrase: “At no point does Clutterbuck control the puck, have possession of the puck, or have any reasonable expectation of contact in this situation.”
This defines the situation to a tee for Jones before he was hit by Benn, and by Shanahan’s own definition of the situation, this should have resulted in Benn being suspended for at least one game as a result, even if Jones didn’t incur an injury like Clutterbuck did.
Jones was all but hanging out in front of the penalty box because he knew he was headed there once the play was finished (he had just run into Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen), and was having no further impact on the play, so this was a needless, premeditated hit which could have seriously injured Jones.
We know that the Oilers are one of the red-headed stepchildren of the league, and get made fun of for being located in Siberia, no one wanting to play there and all those No. 1 draft picks still not getting them out the bottom of the West, but this is ridiculous.
One of the league’s more prominent names (Hall) was suspended for meeting a bruiser of a player head-on and colliding with his knee in the heat of action, while another up-and-coming player (Benn) only got fined for blindsiding a player from behind when he was nowhere near the action, and had no way to defend himself.
Not only is this an inconsistent ruling by the league, but it reinforces the belief that valued star players on American teams receive preferential treatment. If the roles were reversed, we would be reading about Jones being suspended, you can bank on that.
Nice job, Shanahan. Way to make yourself look silly and hypocritical.