Here we go again. Another head shot. Another hearing. More controversy. More hand wringing. More cries about cleaning up the sport. This time around, Duncan Keith of the Chicago Blackhawks delivered a hard elbow to the head of Daniel Sedin of the Vancouver Canucks during a feisty game on Wednesday night.
Now remember, the Canucks and Blackhawks are engaged in probably the nastiest rivalry in the NHL today. These two teams do not like each other in the least. So it’s not a shock when an incident like this happened when these two club get together. I’m surprised there hasn’t been a full-fledged brawl but that’s another story.
In case you haven’t seen it, here is the offence in question.
For that hit, Keith was suspended for 5 games by the NHL. To me it’s not enough. 5 games is nothing for Keith who will use this to get rested and ready for the playoffs. Sedin might miss the rest of the season with a concussion.
Yet this isn’t the first time this has happened. This has been going on for many years with players committing various fouls yet getting nothing more than a slap on the wrist while the victims are put on the shelf for an indefinite period of time.
And I blame the general managers for this! Why? Every year, you hear GMs from Brian Burke to Mike Gillis to Ken Holland to George McPhee talking about getting serious of getting rid of head shots and other acts of violence. Yet when one of their players is the offender, they quickly jump to his defence, insisting his player didn’t mean to do it or it was simply an accident. Hogwash!
If the GMs were serious about getting rid of head shots, they would put in team fines and suspensions to their own players. But since winning hockey games is the only thing that matters, and also their own jobs on the line, the GMs will always stand in the way with what is right for the sport.
There is one exception. Technically it wasn’t a GM, it was an owner but still I give Mario Lemieux full credit for doing what is right. When one of his players, Matt Cooke delivered his umpteenth head shot late last season, the NHL decided to throw the book at him and suspended Cooke for the rest of the regular season and the playoffs which added up to 17 games missed for Cooke. Lemieux went to Cooke following the hearing and told him if he did it again, he would no longer be a Pittsburgh Penguin. Cooke took those words to heart and has changed his game. Today, Cooke has cleaned up his act. No suspensions. No fines. No controversy. He’s an honest player who works hard and contributes positively every night for the Penguins. Granted the argument could be that Sidney Crosby missed the majority of the season with post concussion syndrome after a head shot but my argument is that Lemieux realized this isn’t good for hockey no matter who is delivering the kill shot.
This should be the precedent the rest of the league should follow. Instead it’s all about my team can do no wrong and your team can do no right. If this attitude continues to prevail instead of the action Lemieux took, then the sport and its fans loses. And no one wants that.
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