We’ve heard coaches, GMs, talking heads and NHL executives time and time again preach the importance of making the game safer and trying to eliminate headshots and other dangerous cheapshots from the league. Yet, at every corner, Brendan Shanahan and the department of player safety have turned a blind eye to set the tone that this garbage doesn’t belong in NHL arenas.
The latest blunder came Wednesday night at the conclusion of Game 1 between the Detroit Red Wings and Nashville Predators. Predators captain and star defenseman Shea Weber retaliated to a borderline hit from behind from Red Wings’ Henrik Zetterberg by throwing a punch that missed Zetterberg’s head. When that failed, Weber grabbed the back of Zetterberg’s head and smashed it against the glass as time expired.
Although his helmet cracked, Zetterberg escaped unharmed and is expected to play Friday in Game 2.
What did the league, which has stressed over the last three years to remove this type of behavior, do as punishment? It slapped Weber with a $2,500 fine.
Shame on them.
According to Shanahan, the main reason for the fine rather than a one-game suspension for Weber was because Zetterberg wasn’t seriously injured. Why does that matter in terms of a suspension? The health of the player should have no baring on how sever the penalty should be.
All it would take to really start eliminating these antics throughout the league would be a real suspension. No $2,500 fine. No two game suspension. Not even a five game suspension. Shanahan has to go back to the disciplinarian he was when he took the position. The disciplinarian that gave James Wisniewski an eight game suspension at the beginning of the year, and the type of disciplinarian Colin Campbell was last year when he handed Matt Cooke a 10 game suspension, including seven games in the playoffs.
The NHL should take a play out of Major League Baseball’s playbook with its steroid policy. In MLB, a first-time offense gets you 50 games, a second is 100 games and a third is a ban. No, the NHL should not take this verbatim, but it must begin dolling out suspensions that will prevent players from taking part in these hits.
The Weber incident wasn’t the only piece of tape Shanahan and company had to review last night. Vancouver Canucks forward Byron Bitz blindsided Kings forward Kyle Clifford, leaving Clifford dazed and out for Game 2. Reports are already leaking Bitz will be facing a two game suspension for the hit.
The question then turns to Weber’s status as a superstar in this league. The league wants to showcase its top players, and having the most popular player in Nashville’s young history sit out a game is bad for business.
Weber is a repeat offender, having already paid out $2,500 this season, but not a player most would deem dirty. The NHL had the chance to set the tone for the remainder of the season. It missed badly, opening up the door for other incidents to occur over the next eight weeks.
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