Since the beginning of time, when hockey started becoming a competitive sport, there have been infractions. That’s how the rules evolved, based on events happening on the ice, in ways to try to improve on the quality of the spectacle. Some of those infractions were deemed “over-the-top” and that’s when suspensions started to be handed out.
Over the years, the NHL has been plagued with what seemed like unfair calls, and it became even more evident to fans when it came to suspensions. Sure that bias played a role in the fans’ claims, but some calls left many people scratching their heads. Who has not heard or read about the suspension handed to the Rocket Richard, leading to the well documented riot?
With technology being what it is now, every action by a player towards another is being examined, scrutinized, not only by the media but by fans as well. Videos pop on Youtube almost as quickly as instant replays, or so it seems. Debates amongst friends and foes follow suit in an attempt to determine if the action deserves a suspension or not.
For too long now, the NHL has relied on a single man to decide on the severity of a players’ action, and if he should or not be suspended, as well as how long this suspension should be. This has been controversial dating back as far as I can remember and it’s certainly no different today.
Back in 2007, New York Islanders’ player Chris Simon stomped on Jarko Ruutu and was handed what was back then the longest suspension in league history: 30 games. A year later, Chris Pronger who was then playing for the Anaheim Ducks, stomped on Ryan Kesler’s leg, a gesture reminding everyone of Simon’s incident. But wait: The NHL suspended Pronger for… 8 games! Yet, both players had a history of suspension.
Another example (and I know this will rub some people the wrong way) is the recent incident when Zdeno Chara pushed Max Pacioretty’s head into the stanchion at the Bell Centre on a late hit. Chara received a 5 minutes penalty for interference and a game misconduct. The league judged that Chara’s action deserved no suspension. Yet, in the playoffs against Vancouver, Canucks’ defenseman Aaron Rome caught Nathan Horton with his head down and clocked him, again a hit that was slightly late. Rome also received a 5 minutes penalty for interference and a game misconduct. In a ruling that caught many off guard, the NHL suspended Rome for the rest of the playoffs!
But what if, in order to bring some true justice, the NHL and the NHLPA were to be pro-active? What if they implemented a different concept in time for the next CBA? What if, instead of putting everything on one man’s shoulders, they chose to form a committee instead? Here’s what I would like to see happen, aside from getting rid of the instigator rule as we know it, as it’s a whole different topic all together.
In my recommendation, the NHL would elect one representative to be part of this committee. The NHLPA would also nominate a delegate. I would then suggest adding one more member, neutral, and I would suggest a former NHL referee. This way, short of having fans make the decisions, every aspect of the game would be represented, giving a more transparent look to the whole process. If they can’t come to an agreement, they proceed to a vote.
But wait, I’ll go further. A player should have the right to appeal the decision. The appeal should come at a cost, both in dollars and games missed while the amounts are to be determined. You would have on the one end the decision rendered by the committee, and on the other end a proposal from the player and his agent. Both sides would plead their case to the arbitrator who would then have to decide which of the two is more reasonable. The dollars collected from the player would go towards paying the arbitrator.
Is this a perfect system? Likely not. But it is, in my humble opinion, a much better system than what’s in place right now as it’s simply not working.
En français: Discipline LNH: Une solution possible