Today the overlords at the NHL discipline department did the unprecedented. Yes, in the Colin Campbell era, there was never this type of expediency and over-reaching.
You must feel for Aaron Rome, a player with a clean record and a player who was in interim discipline chief Mike Murphy’s words, involved in a “typical hockey play”. However, said play happened nearly a full second late and has had a seemingly devastating impact on the opposing player. The four game suspension is four times longer than any other suspension handed out in the history of the Stanley Cup Final. And it happened on a play that put Scott Stevens in the Hall of Fame.
And while these days are different, the NHL still can’t get this right. You had to love Murphy’s response when asked about the process he followed to get to this decision. He rambled on about how this is serious business, and decisions shouldn’t be made hastily in the heat of the moment.
Removed from the emotions of the game, he reviewed the replays, consulted with various advisors (Brian Burke, of all people!), considered the extent of the injuries suffered and “went with his gut”. Sounds like how things get decided in a freakin’ beer league (minus perhaps the instant replay).
Yes, after all the furor about head shots and the pending changing of the guard in the discipline department, the man in charge for now goes with his gut. Why does every discipline decision have to involve reinventing the wheel? Why is there no requirement for transparency? And due process? Why does the result of the act matter more than the act itself?
The NHL and its inability to discipline itself is arguably the biggest factor in holding back the growth of the game. So why is it that the meat-heads in charge have so little understanding of the basic notions of due process and transparency? Because they are meat-heads, that’s why.
Suspendable NHL violations can be quite easily categorized into distinct offenses like hitting from behind, hitting from the blind side, late hits, hits to the head, significant stick infractions or other flagrant attempts to injure. For each bucket there should be a reasonably established currency for suspension irrespective of the injury suffered by the player. Just like the pinheads back in Toronto review every goal scored, they can now review every contentious hit. A combination of offenses on one incident or repeat violators should receive more punishment, again in some reasonably established currency.
Further in the words of Mike Murphy, if Rome hits Horton a full second earlier, there is no infraction. Fine. So if you’re a player faced with the prospect of finishing your check or not, it would seem not is the favourable play if finishing your check could result in a lengthy suspension. So in this sense, the NHL players are left again to wonder exactly what are the rules of the game.
Look, we’re not some bitter Canucks’ fan. Or at least not about this particular incident. Aaron Rome for Nathan Horton is a fine swap. And Rome is really a cog in a wheel anyway; while his absence is unfortunate, it’s not about to cost the Canucks any games.
But once again, the NHL looks like a bush league. It looks like they’ve got egg on their face for not suspending Alex Burrows during fingergate and the resulting on-ice circus it has created. And by rolling that into this, the Canucks get their just comeuppance. So in the NHL’s eyes, all is good. Until, of course, the next contentious issue, when it will be back to the drawing board one more time again…