Alright hockey fans, time to find a real Hockey league to watch next season. The NHL has proven once again that hockey is of secondary importance in their joke of a league.
After the Chara-Pacioretty incident where Chara guided his opponent into what is arguably the most dangerous area on the ice and threw his head violently into a lateral stanchion and was assessed no additional discipline, there was an outcry. The NHL brass claimed that the Chara hit was “part of hockey” and exonerated the Boston captain. Bruins’ fans were outraged at Montreal calls for a suspension for having nearly killed one of their players. Oh, did we mention that the NHL VP responsible for discipline is the father of a current Boston Bruin player?
Last night, Aaron Rome of the Vancouver Canucks delivered a late, high but open ice hit against a Boston Bruin player. He was assessed the same on ice penalty as Chara was. This morning, however, the league has decided to suspend Rome for the balance of the playoffs: 4 games.
The NHL had a golden opportunity to show fairness, equity, and consistency. Instead, they proved that they have none. Let us have a look at the two hits and their aftermaths:
- Guilty party: Zdeno Chara, Boston – Captain and 14-year veteran vs. Aaron Rome, Vancouver – in 5 NHL seasons, he hasn’t played a full one yet.
- Result of hit: Chara on Pacioretty – near death experience (no exaggeration), fractured spine, concussion, out for at least the balance of the season (one month). Rome on Horton – concussion, out for the balance of the season (4 games).
- History between players: Chara/Pacioretty: In a previous game, Pacioretty scored a game-winning overtime goal and then pushed Chara as he skated by. Chara took exception. Rome/Horton: No history.
- Location on the ice where the hit was delivered: Chara: Along the boards, between the benches, into a lateral pane of glass and a stanchion. Rome: Open ice. At the blue line.
- Awareness of the victim: Chara hit: both players skating in the same direction, battling, until Chara throws Pacioretty into the stanchion and breaks his neck. Rome: Opposite, north-south contact on a player who had his head down. The league’s GMs were clear that north-south hits to the head are still an unfortunate “part of hockey”.
- Point of contact by attacking player: Chara hit Pacioretty in the head. Rome hit Horton in the head.
- Player’s history of discipline: Chara: exonerated from a previous suspension because of his prior clean record. Exonerated from suspension here because the previous exoneration kept his record clean. Hmmm. Rome: No prior discipline issues.
- League response: Chara: No additional discipline. The hit was “part of hockey”. Rome: 4 games for a hit that actually is.
In March, the league’s arguments for exonerating Chara were:
a) that it was a “hockey hit”. The hit delivered by Aaron Rome happens hundreds of times a season in the NHL. The hit delivered by Chara has happened 3 times in the last decade.
b) that Chara’s past unblemished (sic) record should count for something. Well, it is only unblemished because he received a previous pardon. Rome’s record is *actually* unblemished, in the English sense of the word.
c) that the building’s layout is what caused the injury. HA! That building has housed thousands of hockey games. This injury was caused by a violent action from a player who knew what he was doing. In Rome’s case, it was an open ice hit. It was late, yes, but it was more of a “hockey play” than Chara’s ever will be. Hopefully.
People were quick to defend Bettman, Campbell and Murphy against allegations of favoritism for Campbell’s son’s team. This recent ruling only serves to bolster the allegations. It seems that the league makes its decisions based on who you are, who you play for, and what market you’re in, rather than what actually happened on the ice.
Placing teams in cities like Atlanta, Phoenix, Carolina, Florida, Tampa Bay and others were done to make owners and the league richer, moneywise, without any care for the consequences on OUR great game. The league has decided that the actual game of hockey is secondary to the money that it can bring in. This decision proves that logic has no place in the new NHL.
I believe that the punishment must fit the crime. I believe that players must be responsible for their actions, despite the speed of the game. If you deliver an illegal hit, however illegal, that causes injury, you should be suspended for as long as your illegal hit sidelined your opponent. Obviously, the league only agrees with this principle when it agrees with their pocketbooks.
Chara delivered an illegal hit, received a 5-minute major for interference and a game misconduct. He played the next game. Pacioretty hasn’t played since. Rome delivered an illegal hit, received the same 5-minute major penalty for interference and game misconduct and will miss the rest of the season. That’s just plain not right. If Chara had gotten suspended, this suspension would make sense. To whitewash Chara and penalize Rome for a lesser hit is ludicrous. It removes credibility from the league and reduces interest in a sport that deserves more.
To paraphrase a comment that an angry player once directed at me when I was wearing the stripes: “Get off your knees, Bettman and Co., you’re blowing the game!”