Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Jon Jordan on 10/13/10 at 12:26 PM ET
I’m a little late to the party on this topic, though I’ve shared a thought or two on Twitter this week, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least offer some extended opinion on the recent suspensions handed out to James Wisniewski of the New York Islanders and Chicago’s Niklas Hjalmarsson.
Wisniewski, of course, was banned for a pair of games for making what the NHL dubbed an “inappropriate gesture” directed toward Rangers forward Sean Avery, while Hjalmarsson got the same sentence for a dangerous, blind side hit on Buffalo’s Jason Pominville.
Pominville was concussed on the play and there is said to be no time table for his return to the Sabres lineup. Avery – go figure, be he the perpetrator or the “victim”, involved in yet another incident – suffered, perhaps, some shame and hurt feelings because of Wisniewski’s gesture. But he’s a big boy. He’s over it already, I’m sure.
Neither Hjalmarsson’s hit, nor Wisniewski’s pantomime skills are acceptable, of course, but the fact that these two incidents were met with identical supplementary discipline for the guilty parties is so ridiculously far off the mark, I’m having an awfully difficult time accepting any of it (though I should know better than to expect sensible reactions, having followed this league as long as I have). I also have an equally terrible time making sense of society’s insatiable need to parent the public, which has clearly influenced the league’s position on gesturing and the like.
Hjalmarsson could have crippled Pominville, or worse. Wisniewski reacted poorly to Sean Avery being Sean Avery, had a little fun at the Ranger pest’s expense, and deserved a stern talking to and probably a fine as well, if only because the exchange was captured on camera and has since been immortalized, thanks to YouTube, making it accessible to one and all, now and forever. There was a victim in the Hjalmarsson incident. Who was “victimized” by Wisniewski’s antics?
Oh, right, “The kids”…
The common defense from those okay with the NHL suspending Wisniewski has been something along the lines of, “Well, how do I explain that gesture to my child?” and the point, to some extent, is valid. I’m now a father of two and wouldn’t exactly be completely comfortable with having to level with my boys to the tune of, “You see, son(s), James was telling Sean that he [blanks] the [blanks] of other men and, while, if that were true, there’s nothing wrong with that, since that would be Sean’s personal choice and no one has the right to call that into question, he was probably kidding and just trying to make Sean feel bad.” (That’s about as P.C. an explanation as one can give, right?) “He was being a poor sport,” would probably work just as well. Kids are smart.
So, what is it that we’re so worried about? I surmise it’s children copying what Wisniewski did themselves at some point and, if that’s the case, my question is, why aren’t we equally as concerned about young hockey players mimicking the actions of Hjalmarsson? And which end result would be more detrimental? I’d certainly prefer having to counsel my kids through a verbal jab or some questionable sign language from a foe to nursing them back to health after a concussion – or worse.
By equating one incident to the other, the NHL has made their statement and they couldn’t have it any more wrong.
Inherently, kids are going to pick up on inappropriate behaviors. At some point, they’re going to share their middle fingers with a friend and, probably, worse. And, while that isn’t very nice, parents can certainly communicate as much. But whatever happened to “Sticks and stones…” and so on and so forth?
Oral sex gesture? Yeah, that’s not right. “Shouldn’t do that, James. Don’t do it again.” That’s a well-deserved warning. Deliberate non-compliance thereafter would undoubtedly call for suspension.
But significant injury to another on a play that was deemed illegal? Without question, Hjalmarsson/Pominville-like instances always deserve immediate, supplementary punishment. That kind of thing simply can’t happen. Examples should be set. And kids do need consistent reinforcement of as much.
How league disciplinarians cannot see that hammering a guy from behind – with an end result that could very well have been far worse – and making a childish gesture in an effort to belittle a rival are at opposite ends of the severity spectrum, is beyond me. To this sensible observer, it couldn’t be more clear.
In the end, it’s just two games for each of the offending parties and, like every other time questionable suspensions are handed out, we’ll soon get past all of this, I guess. But where are we going from here?
(And how far off is two minutes for cursing, by the way?)
With regard to supplementary discipline, the NHL would be best served to keep (make?) protecting its players a top priority and, while there’s also something to be said for defending the integrity of the league as a whole, the powers-that-be need not worry so much about protecting the viewing public (and their children) from themselves.
We’ll handle that part, thanks.
At least I will.
Filed in: NHL Teams, Buffalo Sabres, Chicago Blackhawks, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, NHL Talk, Cheap Hits, | KK Hockey | Permalink
Tags: james+wisniewski, jason+pominville, niklas+hjalmarsson, sean+avery
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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
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