by PuckStopsHere on 10/05/10 at 01:39 AM ET
In 2007, I thought the NHL got their pre-season suspension policy right. Steve Downie was given a 20 game suspension for a dirty hit on Den McAmmond that occurred in pre-season. Downie was a prospect at this time who was trying to make a name for himself by his reckless play. Downie charged about 40 feet and left his feet to make a hit on McAmmond’s head that injured McAmmond. The NHL threw the book at him because he was a player who was not expected to crack an NHL roster. It turns out that he would have had a much shorter suspension if he was an established NHL player. We have clearly seen that this year based on several suspendable events that all involved NHL regulars.
Most recently, Mike Cammalleri of the Montreal Canadiens received a one game suspension for a slash on Nino Niederreiter of the New York Islanders. Derek Boogaard of the New York Rangers was not suspended at all for his spear on Chris Neil of the Ottawa Senators.
Earlier in the pre-season, Brooks Orpik of the Pittsburgh Penguins was given no suspension for his knee on Johan Franzen of the Detroit Red Wings that left Franzen injured and Chicago defenceman Nick Boynton received no suspension for his slash on Chris Durno of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Boynton did receive a one game suspension but only for a “throat-slashing gesture” that occurred after a fight that followed the kneeing incident.
The moral of the story is that this year, pre-season suspensions will be short (one game) and inconsistently applied. None of these four events are as small as 1/20th as severe as what Steve Downie has done three years ago, but the suspensions are 1/20th as long (if there is a suspension at all). I think the logical conclusion is that Steve Downie was treated differently because he was not an NHL regular at the time of his offence. There was no change in suspension policy at the time. It was merely a chance to look like the NHL suspension policy was tough on a player who did not matter at the time. The NHL has no desire to look tough if it keeps NHL players out for any extended period of time. Had it been a non-NHL player who was the first offender, I have no doubt that the suspension would have been much more serious.
The problem with the NHL’s suspension policy is that it is tied up with the NHL’s marketing. Good players do not get the same suspension for the same infraction as weaker players. NHL players get treated differently than those who are unlikely to be NHLers. Players who are unlikely to make the NHL are not important to ticket sales and NHL players are more important. As a result, there are two different standards for suspensions (if not more than two).
The pre-season shows how inconsistent the NHL’s suspension policy is. It is likely that when more serious events happen throughout the season, the hypocrisy will be even more obvious and will likely embarrass the league.
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