While the NHL general managers met in Florida, word came down from the powers-that-be that Dany Heatley will sit for two games for his elbow to the head of Steve Ott. The star right wing is the Sharks’ second leading scorer with 24 goals and 34 assists in 71 games this season. So much for the NHL taking a stand on headshots.
Two games while similar cases received three games earlier this year. Two games while the GMs JUST SPENT days talking about headshots and what they can do to protect players’ safety. To punish him, he’ll miss games against the Wild and Blues—the two easier games left on the Sharks schedule. Good thing he’ll be back for those games against the Coyotes, Kings, and Flames. Otherwise, this punishment might have sent a message.
From the NHL’s official statement:
“San Jose Sharks forward Dany Heatley has been suspended for two games and will forfeit $80,645.16 in salary for delivering an elbow to the head of Dallas Stars player Steve Ott in NHL game #1049 last night, the National Hockey League announced today.”
The questionable suspension will be hard for some to digest because of the climate the judgment was delivered in. There are debates all over North America between fans, players, and executives discussing the state of the NHL and where the game should go from here. Is the league doing what it needs to do to protect the players? Is there enough respect between the players today? Some have gone as far as suggesting that all headshots should be banned. Then, in this atmosphere, the league hands down a decision that is WEAKER than the available precedent.
Let’s be clear—there is no gray area here. It was a dirty play that encapsulates everything that people are trying to get out of the game. Just because Steve Ott was able to walk away from the hit doesn’t change the fact that the hit was out-of-bounds.
Even media members in the Bay Area are mocking the decision:
“By then, everyone should have figured what is and isn’t allowable. Depending on time, place, officials, and the value of the head in question. But for now, Dany Heatley can breathe a sigh of relief. At a time when the NHL said it would crack down on head shots, it decided to hold the crackdown another day.”
The problem is there is no excuse for this kind of play. It’s a shot to the head. It’s a clear elbow with the worst of intentions. It’s not a “hockey play.” Yet with all of those key hot-button issues encapsulated in one play, the league still refuses to send a message.
Like Mr. Ratto said, maybe next time.