March 17, 2008

NHL Suspensions Not Working
Time to introduce standard penalties?

Maybe it's just my preoccupation with hockey. Maybe its because I don't really follow any other sport closely enough. So correct me if I'm wrong. But it seems to be me that there are far more suspensions in hockey for on-ice incidents than in the NBA, NFL and MLB for on-field/on-court incidents.

Other than the whole Ron Artest affair in the NBA a couple of years back, I can't think of any famous suspensions in recent years in any of those sports. You know, unless you count criminal behavior, drug and steroid abuse, gun violations and sexual assaults associated with those athletes. (tangent: hockey players aren't a whole lot better, don't kid yourself)

But in hockey, we seem to have a new suspension every other week. I'm not really sure why that is, other than the undeniable fact that hockey condones violence. Football and basketball are physical sports, but they don't condone violence. As a result hockey has a different mentality and culture. And though us hockey fans love it, it does not make it right.

But we need to start asking ourselves what we can do to change that. Suspensions clearly are not the answer. Players keep doing dumb things. Dangerous things.

You can suspend Chris Simon for 30 games for stomping on Jarkko Ruuttu with his skate, but then Chris Pronger comes along. Todd Bertuzzi can mug Steve Moore, but a dozen other muggings have occurred since, although none nearly as disastrous.

I write this the day after the 53rd anniversary of the Rocket Richard riot, where Montreal fans rioted following Richard's suspension for attacking a player and an official. While officials are generally safe, countless player assaults have happened since.

My point - suspensions are not working. Suspensions should be not only a punishment for a particular offender, but also act as a deterrent to all future culprits. Yet the same crimes are repeated time and time again.

This week's suspension of discussion is of course Chris Pronger's 8 game ban for stomping on Ryan Kesler. Not that there is much to discuss. Everyone thinks 8 games was not enough. He purposefully stepped on another player with his sharpened skate blade.

The NHL's answer could have been easy. We've already seen this despicable act this season, and the NHL slammed repeat offender with a 30 game sentence. I thought that was too lenient in Simon's case!

So you can imagine my reaction to Pronger's 8 game ban. I did not think Pronger's act was as premeditated as Simon's, so I would have been happy with a bit less. But this 8 game sentence accomplished only one thing - make us feel sorry Chris Simon, which not long ago was unthinkable.

Perhaps the time has come for standard penalties for various offences. Let every player and team know from this point on. If you step on a player you get X games. If you try to take off a guy's head with your stick, you get X games. If you mug another player you get X games. Superstar or not. Eliminate the debate. Or at least have minimum suspensions, as every case seems to have some sort of gray area.

To some degree that's what happens in the real world. Commit a crime and you go to jail for however long. Everyone knows up front.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Too true Joe. I'll even say suspensions are getting (arbitrarily) weaker.

For example, Pronger's 8 game timeout for willful felonious battery (with a skate blade, or a knife) is pretty weak compared to Owen Nolan's 11 game suspension in 2001 for high-elbowing Grant Marshall into unconsciousness - even when Marshall was back in the line 2 games later.

This is Pronger's eighth suspension in 14 seasons FFS! (Owen had only this one.) >knock knock< Hello Bettman: see a trend here?? TV-ratings-and-advert-dollars alert!!

While the owners muck about with the size of goalie pads to increase scoring chances, perhaps they can do MUCH better in ensuring the players aren't stabbed first. (Or are the owners still pissed off from the 2004-5 lockout?)