I wonder if NHL Senior Vice President of Player Safety Brendan Shanahan finally took a hit to the head himself. Did one of his co-workers deliver a blow to the head in the Toronto or New York offices?
This season has been crazy in the games doled out for suspensions due to illegal play. The 2013-14 season has already resulted in 98 regular season games being taken away from players. That is significant because it has already eclipsed the lockout shortened 2013 season of 86 regular season games. To look back at the last full season of 2011-12 the league suspended players for 134 games.
If the pace continues the NHL will surpass the last full season mark in about a month. What is even more striking is the length being handed down for each occurrence. So far this season Shanahan has yet to administer a one-game suspension. Over the past two seasons there were multiple single-game suspensions given out.
For the past week, the NHL fandom has been waiting to see how Shawn Thornton would be dealt with for his disgusting punches to Brooks Orpik. The NHL has been all over the map when it comes to consistency in their suspensions and fines. Some have even joked they spin a wheel of punishment at the office and whatever number it lands on is what the player receives. By some I may mean my friends and I over beers and food.
There were many signs that pointed to the NHL “going soft” on Thornton besides the known inconsistency. The immediate apologies Thornton gave after the game, as well as seeming genuinely disgusted in himself, made many feel that would help his cause. Also, the fact he was a first-time offender. It is hard to keep count of how many times in a video released by the NHL that Shanahan has used the first time offender line to explain why a certain player got a certain number games.
I applaud the NHL for finally throwing the book at a first-time offender, no matter how much he showed remorse and admittance he was wrong. It would have been really easy for the league to give out 8-10 games, but instead Shanahan gave a first timer 15 games. Some have been calling for as high as 30 but I can live with 15. When people asked me what I though the league would hand down, I was guessing only 10.
We all know the league is trying to protect players from concussions. Every league in the world is doing that to avoid a lawsuit of the NFL variety. The best way to do this is not by fines, or five-minute majors and game misconducts; it is to levy long suspensions for these actions. I especially want to see lengthy suspensions for deliberate and premeditated actions such as what Thornton did.
I feel every avoidable hit to the head should be a suspension. I understand when a player accidentally brings the arms up in the course of a hit and gets a very low number of games. When a player leaves his skates to deliver a blow, or flat out punches a guy to the head in a non-fighting moment, I want the hammer to come down.
I am not hoping the 2013-14 season sets a record for most games suspended by any means. That only means too much dirty play has happened and too many players are being hurt for long periods of time.
As a fan I want to see the game be cleaned up and the hits to be legal. If handing out multiple double digit suspensions sends the message, so be it.
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