Grit part of the game
Last week, Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara decided to finish a check on Montreal Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty. It occurred after the winger had already released the puck and Chara unfortunately rode him into a stanchion that divides the two teams benches. Pacioretty received a concussion and a broken vertebrae.
Now, despite the popular belief of Canadiens fans, Zdeno Chara should not have been suspended. I don’t care if it’s George Molson, Air Canada or Stephen Harper stating otherwise, the man was finishing a play that simply ended in an unfortunate area of the ice.
Should he have received a penalty? Yes. But a suspension? No. You cannot punish a clean record player like Chara for simply completing a check that only years earlier would have been seen as the correct thing to do.
But of course, quite a few people don’t see it this way. And I think that’s because we’ve been blind towards the game of hockey.
Due to an apparent rise in headshots and illegal hits, fans and league officials alike have become enamored with suspensions.
The main thought being that the more we suspend players, the stronger the message gets across that violence will not be tolerated in the National Hockey League (NHL).
I’m here to say, ladies and gentlemen, that that’s bullshit.
Fans of the game can demand any sort of suspensions that they want, but really what good has that done so far? Take just the most recent example: Islanders forward Trevor Gillies. The man returns from a nine-game suspension only to last a period and a half before hitting Cal Clutterbuck and receiving a 10-game suspension. He really learned his lesson, yes?
Players like Gillies, Matt Cooke and Sean Avery all have a history of suspensions attached to their records, but alas, they continue to be the morons that they are.
If the league really wants to get the message through to these guys, stop thinking that they care about the loss of money and ice time.
Take former New Jersey Devils defencemen-turned-hockey analyst Ken Daneyko’s solution. Instead of having them sit games, put a bounty on their head for the games that they do play. If the guy is a repeat offender and is showing no signs of smartening up, allow a week or two where the rest of the league can do what they want to that player without any sort of consequence.
After having been run and beaten for a week, see if he ever thinks of doing it again.
Of course, this is only a speculative solution and in short, would have little effect on the so-called “violence” plaguing the league. Even if we do take care of the idiots, there is absolutely no way that we’re going to be able police the idiocy.
Some of the most violent acts in the history of the league have been perpetrated by guys with previously clean records acting simply in the heat of the moment. In the last decade alone, the likes of respected players Owen Nolan and Scott Neidermayer received suspensions of 10 games for foolish, one-time acts. Hell, if we think back prior to the Steve Moore incident, Todd Bertuzzi was a respected power forward.
And yet even after setting an example through these players’ punishments, Chris Simon still tried to chop off Ryan Hollweg’s head with his stick and Shane Doan still attempted to take out Dan Sexton on his way back to the bench.
NHL hockey has just become a much bigger and faster game. With the rule changes after the lock out, the game has simply evolved in grit just as much as in speed. This is something people seem to fail to recognize and that’s where the public obsession with suspensions has come in to play.
You can try to take the violence out of the NHL, but the bottom line is you can’t take out the idiocy. There will always be, without fail, some player to fill that role.
And don’t get me wrong, certain plays deserve punishment.
But the sooner we stop getting all up in arms after a “hockey play” and realize that this game isn’t all that much different from the one we enjoyed in yesteryear, the better it will be for the sport and its fans.