Wednesday, March 10, 2010

NHL Lets Their Arrogance Show

Never assume.

Even when it seems obvious, and it looks like there is no other possible answer, never assume, especially when it comes to the NHL.

Earlier in the season, Philadelphia captain Mike Richards inexplicably and hilariously avoided a suspension for trying to decapitate Florida's David Booth. Of course, the fact that Sean Avery got a six-game ban for telling a sex joke that referenced another NHL player's girlfriend is not to be forgotten.

Sex joke = 6 games. Attempted decapitation = no games?

Sunday, we had another attempted decapitation in the NHL. The thinking was that this situation would be handled differently. Like it or not, Pittsburgh forward Matt Cooke -- a repeat offender in the NHL's eyes -- was going to be suspended for his blindside hit that knocked Boston Bruin Marc Savard into the middle of April.

Instead, Cooke got nothing.

No games.

Even better was the explanation from NHL discipline czar Colin Campbell.

Colie Campbell explaining his decision now. Said it was a matter of consistency. No suspension for Richards. No suspension for Cooke.

Wait, you're playing the consistency card now?

Don't go anywhere. This story gets even more non-sensical.

The league is prepared to adopt a new rule banning these kinds of blind-side hits. But they're going to wait until next year.
"A lateral, back pressure or blindside hit to an opponent where the head is targeted and/or the principal point of contact is not permitted. A violation of the above will result in a minor or major penalty and shall be reviewed for possible supplemental discipline."

This is fine, but why are we waiting?

We didn't have to wait for the Sean Avery Rule.

After taking his second goaltender interference penalty of the series, Avery came up with a new, and apparently legal, way to get into (Devils goalie Martin) Brodeur's head. With his back to the play, Avery parked at the edge of Brodeur's crease and waved his arms wildly in a bizarre effort to distract the Devils' goaltender. He also waved the blade of his stick back and forth in front of Brodeur's mask.

"I've been watching games for 33 years and I have never seen anything like that in my life," Brodeur told the New York Daily News. "If it's within the rules, it's within the rules. The official came over and said it probably wasn't something that should be done."

National Hockey League Senior Executive Vice President and Director of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell issued a statement Monday to make the league's position clear going forward. The statement said:

"An unsportsmanlike conduct minor penalty (Rule 75) will be interpreted and applied, effective immediately, to a situation when an offensive player positions himself facing the opposition goaltender and engages in actions such as waving his arms or stick in front of the goaltender's face, for the purpose of improperly interfering with and/or distracting the goaltender as opposed to positioning himself to try to make a play."

Why was this such an emergency, but people getting knocked unconscious on the ice can wait until next fall?

Frankly, the NHL's arrogance on this matter is stunning. They've continued to act as if they're doing what's best for the players, but they've virtually ignored this headshot issue all season. If it weren't for the fans and media constantly bringing the topic up, the league may have already swept it under the rug.

This takes the cake. They have a rule ready to go, but they're pretending that they just can't take five minutes and change this interpretation now. Do Campbell and Gary Bettman think we've forgotten about the Avery debacle? Or do they think we're just okay with them making us wait for a very important rules interpretation to change?

The league preaches the importance of player safety, but it's becoming increasingly obvious that player safety only matters to the league when it's convenient.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Tremendous posting, you are absolutely correct. Time and time again, Colin Campbell has proved to be completely overwhelmed and incapable of doing his job. Why worry about the little stick infractions when you've got guys like Cooke and Ruutu running around taking cheapshots at everyone and then the refs tie the hands of the enforcers who are supposed to protect the skill guys? I'm not paying $60/ticket to see Matt Cooke blindside a star player.