Even though it was a small piece of the NHL’s CBA proposal to the players’ union, this bit about how the league would handle disciplinary hearings was pretty intriguing:
Supplemental and Commissioner Discipline
We are proposing to amend current Player discipline provisions to introduce additional procedural safeguards to protect Player interests, including an ultimate appeal right to a “neutral” third-party arbitrator with a “clearly erroneous” standard of review.
In short, appeals of rulings from NHL discipline czar Brendan Shanahan would be conducted by an outside party, rather than the guy previously overseeing the procedure — NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.
Upon hearing this, one name jumps to mind: Raffi Torres
After being suspended 25 games for his hit on Chicago’s Marian Hossa during the playoffs, Torres both issued a statement and appealed the suspension length through the NHLPA, condemning the manner in which the decision was reached.
Here’s text from the appeal request obtained by Eric Macramalla, PHT’s resident sports legal analyst:
The NHLPA argues that supplementary discipline must be imposed by the NHL in a “consistent manner” so that players have a clear understand and expectation as to how on-ice transgressions will be treated by the league. In this case, in the view of the NHLPA, the ruling was not consistent with previous cases and the hearing and suspension “violated the very basic requirements of a fair process” which is a “matter of concern to all Players”.
The NHLPA goes on to argue that supplementary discipline needs to be imposed in a “consistent manner” and that the “discipline imposed on Mr. Torres manifestly was not”.
The NHLPA has characterized the suspension as “excessive and arbitrary in that it is entirely inconsistent with the League’s past treatment of similar incidents”
It was clear the PA was displeased with the league’s disciplinary procedure (which, to be fair, was in its first year of existence.)
Torres’ appeal was successful to a certain degree — Gary Bettman reduced the suspension from 25 to 21 games — but the commissioner’s decision was rife with ramifications.
Bettman overruled the longest and arguably most controversial decision of Shanahan’s time as NHL discipline czar, and did so nearly three months after the fact (Torres was suspended on May 3, the appeal was announced on Jul. 2)
So the new approach to player discipline is probably a welcome development for the NHLPA. Right?
Well, not so fast.
Here’s what union boss Donald Fehr had to say in a letter to NHLPA members:
“Finally, they also proposed that the players could appeal supplemental or commissioner discipline to a neutral arbitration, on a ‘clearly erroneous’ standard, which, as a practical manner, makes it very unlikely that any decision would be overturned.”
For more on the “clearly erroneous” standard, click here.
The next 10 days promise to be a lot of fun.