NHL bosses overturning suspension surprises no one – but disappoints many

June 1, 2009

(ChattahBox) — The official rule book of the National Hockey League lists 87 major rules, plus hundreds of subordinate rules intended to protect the game and ensure good, sporting behavior.

But only if they’re enforced.

The latest example of the NHL bosses’ ongoing penchant for ‘selective’ adherence could be witnessed in all its risible glory on Sunday, during Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals at the Joe Louis Arena in downtown Detroit.

With under two minutes left in the game, Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin jabbed Detroit Redwings’ Henrik Zatterberg with his elbow and stick. The Redwing star was then further goaded until gloves were removed and punches exchanged. This invoked Rule 47:22 and earned Malkin – as the fight’s instigator – a one-game suspension…which the NHL’s suits then promptly nixed.

Such suspensions are imposed – and can also be quashed – at the judgment of Colin Campbell, the NHL’s executive VP.  And his decision on this one has brought unbounded scorn on both him and the League as a whole; “Suspensions,” he declared in a press release hastily crafted to defend and support his pretzel-like logic, “are applied under this rule when a team attempts to send a message in the last five minutes by having a player instigate a fight.” And such tactile telegraphy was, he assures us, decidedly absent on Sunday.

In three years on the ice, Malkin has yet to receive a single suspension. Zetterberg has kept a clean record for over six years. These are two of the best talents now gracing the game – and the NHL still drops the puck.

The reasons behind such flaccid ‘enforcement’ are not hard to see – Allowing Pittsburgh to stay at full strength is good for the game as a whole, and therefore the ratings. And those whose management causes high ratings tend to get a nice bonus as reward for their skill.

Before this latest facile ruling was even delivered, team heads knew only too well what they could expect, Asked how he’d cope with Malkin missing Game 3, Detroit coach Mike Babcock seemed unconcerned; “I don’t think anything will happen.” was the jaundiced response.

A game without rules is unavowed warfare, and rules without teeth make that sport and its captains a joke.

Mr. Campbell’s own statement merely underscores this; At the end of a tortuous dissertation on why Malkin should suffer no blame whatever for his willful infraction, Campbell’s press release offers this succulent gem, “Malkin should have been assessed a game misconduct for not having his jersey tied down.”

Isn’t that precious? A high-profile player starts an unprovoked fight with an opponent four-inches shorter, and the NHL merely critiques his couture.

The League’s management needs to make a tough call: Either enforce the rules and live with the outcome, or abandon all regulation entirely and punish the players without the merest concession to logic or reason. One way or another, they now have to decide.

The game and its fans deserve nothing less.


3 Responses to “NHL bosses overturning suspension surprises no one – but disappoints many”

  1. Old Man Dotes on June 1st, 2009 4:47 pm

    I understand that the 260-plus violent sociopaths currently incarcerated at Guantanamo are in negociations with Campbell over their salaries as the 2010 NHL starting lineup.

    No one will see any difference, except perhaps a “cleaner” game.

  2. B on June 1st, 2009 4:54 pm

    Old man – that was a stupid comment.

  3. fcs on June 1st, 2009 11:21 pm

    Chattahbox is spot on regarding Campbell’s inability to create credibility for the NHL. There is little mystery why this amazing sport does not receive its due respect. The pathetic weakness displayed by the NHL executive office is deservedly hurting this great game.

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