The Ship Be Sinking

Mouth Almighty

Seabrook-Wisniewski

By the recent history of NHL jurisprudence, 8 games is horseshit; he should have gotten at most 2.

By the reality of the situation he should get a hell of a lot more, and yet this penalty is just long enough for everyone to know that it’s an example and being done to stop the league from looking bad and yet not long enough to actually dissuade any future behavior. This suspension is media-driven, determined more by events surrounding it than any individual merit- if not for the Richards/Cooke/Ovechkin hits dominating the last week of hockey coverage even as we approach the playoffs (plus the visual impact of the hit and Seabrook crumpling to the ice like a Pacquiao opponent), it’s a good bet that this wouldn’t be much more than a game for Wisniewski, prior offender or not. The next guy who delivers a hit like this will assume, rightly, that all he has to do is wait for the heat to cool off and something like this will be considered just another check, probably not even a penalty with some officiating crews on some nights.

To actually dissuade players from executing these kinds of hits you need to do one or both of two things: consistently suspend and fine players enough for these plays to hurt (10-15 games) whether or not hits to the head is the topic of the day, season after season, regardless of team of player identity; or else, if you’re going to make an example of someone, make a real example- suspend them for a full season, 82 games from the spot of the foul, and fight the court case. Right now the NHL’s biggest disciplinary problem is that no one respects any part of the process or anyone executing it, and while draconian maliciousness isn’t the best way of breaking that cycle it’s rapidly becoming one of the very few tools the NHL has left itself. They can’t fire all the referees although they should since there’s no one to replace them with, they can’t re-write the rule book from scratch although they should because people’s assumptions are too dug in, they can’t just change the headshots rule because the officials won’t call it and Toronto will undermine it as soon as it’s written in by playing favorites and ducking hard calls, they can’t change Colin Campbell because look who’d be in charge of replacing him- all that’s left for them is to crack down harder and harder in the short term, hopefully while starting to rebuild actual quality and ability in all the other areas just mentioned. All this suspension does is prove that the NHL still isn’t serious about any of this, and barely even knows it has a problem.

And let it be added, even if the NHL does get serious about this in a day or a week or a month, it’s not going to change the basic issue of what gets called, probably rightly, disrespect. Right now the NHL has a generation or two of players who think this is a gang war and anything goes, that it’s not just acceptable but desirable to hurt your opponents. Read the quotes here and here; until that disgusting mentality is run out of the game, this shit is going to keep happening, over and over and over, until someone gets killed on the ice. You know it’s coming, I know it’s coming, and right now no one cares enough to do anything about it. Right now the default position in the NHL from players, broadcasters, media and fans is to blame an injured player for being too weak to take a hit, and celebrate the person who injured him for playing the game hard. It’s not a coincidence that every year there’s more of these hits and that they’ve increased with dramatic frequency over the last 20 years.

Bonus quotes on Colin Campbell here. Can you imagine the chief official in charge of player discipline in any other sport being publicly told that his presence is unwanted and he’s not welcome in the dressing room even to explain himself? Only the NHL is this much of a joke, only their officials held in such open and blatant contempt by the people they’re supposed to be overseeing.

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March 18, 2010 - Posted by | Other NHL

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