By Eric Wilkins, Staff Writer
Hockey is a physical sport. The crowd fully expects (and often wishes for) excessive violence. However, there is a line that needs to be drawn so that players don’t suffer grievous injury. To this end, Brendan Shanahan, the NHL’s chief disciplinarian, has the duty of punishing those who cross the line in order to prevent such injuries. However, if recent events are any indication, he’s been doing a poor job.
Raffi Torres is a rough player. Some would go so far as to call him dirty. All the same, the hockey world was shocked last month when Shanahan handed out a 25-game suspension to the forward for his vicious hit on Marian Hossa.
Twenty-five games is absurd. However, the suspension is not absurd in its length (Chris Simon, anyone?), but rather, it’s consistency, or lack thereof. I have no issue with Torres sitting out almost a third of the season. I, in fact, agree wholeheartedly with the decision. That being said, comparing Torres’ suspension to others’, he shouldn’t have gotten any more than five games. Maximum.
I had great faith in Shanahan when he was initially put in charge. Surely a former player would be able to understand what those un-athletic suits at the top of the pyramid could never get. Unfortunately, it appears that faith was misplaced. Case in point: in the Detroit-Nashville series, Shea Weber grabbed Henrik Zetterberg’s head and slammed it into the boards. The penalty for this street-fighting move? A $2,500 fine. $2,500 isn’t even a slap on the wrist. These players are multi-millionaires.
[quote style=”boxed”]The NHL can say all they want that they will protect their star players, but outside of the Torres incident, there seems to be little real substance behind their words.[/quote]
Torres stands to lose $21,341 for every game he misses. That adds up to $533,525 in lost salary. Mathematically, Torres’ hit was approximately 213 times worse, in Shanahan’s opinion, than the mauling performed by Weber. I’ll leave you to think up your own disbelieving comment.
In an event well-known to Canucks fans, Duncan Keith received a mere five games for his elbow on Daniel Sedin. Finally, heading back to last year, David Steckel got off scot-free after concussing the NHL’s crown jewel, Sidney Crosby, with a blindside hit. The NHL can say all they want that they will protect their star players, but outside of the Torres incident, there seems to be little real substance behind their words.
I sincerely hope that Torres’ behemoth suspension is the start of a new trend. If players realize that they will miss significant time and money for their actions, there is a strong likelihood that fewer and fewer violent episodes will arise. Shanahan has to come to his senses and see that handing out paltry fines and minimal suspensions serves little purpose. If he doesn’t, then cross your fingers that the equipment companies revolutionize player safety because it looks like that’s the only protection players are going to get.