Monday, April 16, 2012

NHL Suspension Policies for Fighting are Baffling

When his elbow hit the head of fellow swede Daniel Alfredsson, Rangers rookie winger Carl Hagelin knew he'd miss some time. While it wasn't intentional, it was certainly reckless, and worthy of a suspension.

3 games for a hit to the head - seems fair, right?

Well, maybe it is. My only question though, why is the NHL so reluctant to treat all players equally?

In the very same game, Matt Carkner of the Ottawa Senators ruthlessly, UFC knockout style, attacked Rangers forward Brian Boyle. Boyle, who had just thrown a clean and pretty routine hit on an Ottawa player, was taken off guard by Carkner, who did not challenge Boyle, but instead, came from behind and started throwing punches Stone Cold Steve Austin, Rattle Snake style straight to the dome piece.

I believe we've seen something like this attack before in the NHL, right? Oh yeah, Todd Bertuzzi ending the career of Steve Moore on March 8, 2004.

Now, obviously, it wasnt as gruesome as the Bertuzzi, Moore incident, Boyle was OK on the play, and Brandon Dubinsky got a game misconduct for trying to pull Carkner off. The Rangers would inevitably lose two key players for the game. Ottawa lost one peripheral player who is lucky to play over five minutes a game. No surprise then, that the Senators went on to win and even up the series at one 1 apiece.

Let's also not forget about the Nashville/Detroit series. By now, if you've watched any hockey at all these playoffs, you've no doubt seen Shea Weber's "Mortal Combat Finish Him" move on Red Wings star Henrik Zetterberg.

Weber's actions resulted in only a $2500 fine. Basically pocket change to an NHL player of his caliber.

Add in the violent disregard for the game shown by San Jose in St. Louis, and you have an NHL that is not holding its players accountable.

I'm not on here, as a Ranger fan, to say Hagelin did not deserve a suspension. I believe the game needs to clean up its act and that the punishment fits the crime. What I don't agree with, is that his play, was any worse than the other discipline worthy plays happening lately.

So to Brendan Shannahan: it's time to step up and do the right thing. You are one of the greatest, most honorable players to ever play the game. The rule book has become filled with too many gray lines. Clearly the other league executives have influenced you, and the guys on the ice know it.


  1. Amen. The Weber incident was outrageous and clear indication that there's a double standard (at least) when it comes to coddling stars.

    I happen to agree that 3 games for Hagelin may be right and warranted, at least in the abstract (i.e. when not compared to other punishments levied). I say this even though Hagelin is just about the furthest thing from a goon that there is in the NHL - and moreover (but no excuse) he had spent most of that game as the recipient of countless late and/or cheap hits, cross checks etc.

    Separately, Dubinsky being tossed was equally absurd. Evidently what Shanahan wants to see - and I share your respect and admiration for him as a player - is that a player getting mugged from behind, by the gutless Matt Carkner, should simply take the beatdown while his teammates should stand around and do nothing. (Hmm, fascinating; I daresay Brendan Shanahan as a player wouldn't have tolerated that.)

  2. Thanks for the comment anonymous!

    the league has also shown in the past that being "third man in" isnt always a game misconduct. The rule book allows for discretion. take for example, the Rangers Devils line brawl. Bryce Salvador got 3rd man in, but only got a 10 minute misconduct.

    1. Thanks, I forgot about that incident with Salvador. I guess in fairness maybe they're trying to clamp down during the playoffs, which I suppose is fine. Nevertheless this inconsistency makes it impossible for players - or even the officials - to know what and where the proverbial line should be.

      (Separately I note that Gary Bettman has claimed publicly that officiating during the playoffs would not differ from the regular season.

      In any event the officiating has been, um, inconsistent, to be charitable. I certainly wouldn't have wanted to be one of the refs Saturday night during Ottawa-NYR, but they did not distinguish themselves at all, and now Shanahan has made it worse.

      I give the Senators credit; they got really lucky after those shenanigans on Saturday, and now the league has whitewashed it all. Rather incredible and, as you say, entirely incomprehensible.

  3. Good article Jayce,

    Although you didnt mention that callahan took an almost identical hit that game that resulted in only a 2 minute minor and nothing else. Honestly, the NHL knows that this is a huge negative impact on sport and they must realize they are in the wrong. They had to disable comments on articles that relate to this because there were too many hate messages about the officiating and Shanahan. I would love to see how he justifies these calls. Officiating and decisions like fines and game misconducts are supposed to a be a deterrent for players to not get justice on their own. But bad decisions like this just feed the fire and make everything worse.
    I would not be surprised to see this just get much more intense in the Detroit and NYR series. Not to mention the bloodbath that is Pens - Flyers

  4. I really question the officials not protecting Boyle in this instance. He's on the floor getting pummelled before he even dropped his gloves. Instead of breaking up the fight he just stands there. And then he gives Dubinsky 3rd man in? Very poor officiating.