Illegal is illegal, regardless of injury

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booth.jpgWith the hockey world still awaiting news of Ovechkin’s suspension,
it seems that everyone is weighing in with their opinion on the legality
of hits and whether a suspension is worthy and why is Ovechkin getting
punished while Matt Cooke got off without one.

Well, here’s my
take on this whole mess.

The NHL takes injuries into account
when handing out punishment.

Here’s my biggest issue with the
entire system. If a play commits an egregious and illegal act on the
ice, he should be punished the exact same way each time. Every player
should be suspended in the same manner for the same hits, regardless of
whether they are a superstar or not and no matter what team they might
play for.

Of course, repeat offenders would be punished
accordingly and on a tiered system. They currently — supposedly — act
more harshly towards repeat offenders but it’s not the same way each
time.

That’s not the way the NHL works, however. It doesn’t matter
if one hit is just as dangerous and illegal as the next, if there
wasn’t an injury involved it’s not punished as harshly.

Witness
the Steve Downie slew foot of Sidney Crosby. There was about a half-inch
worth of movement to either side during that hit and we’d be having a
completely different conversation today. If Crosby’s knee had buckled
and his season was potentially over, Downie would be standing right
behind Ovechkin in line to talk to Colin Campbell. But Crosby was fine,
and it appears Downie will escape further punishment. Does that fact
that an injury did not occur make the play any less illegal?

The
NHL was supposedly content with letting the game misconduct stand as
Ovechkin’s only punishment, until we learned today that Brian Campbell
is potentially out for the season with a broken collarbone. Now Ovechkin
could be facing a multiple-game suspension. Does Campbell’s injury
suddenly make the play worse?

What about Matt Cooke?

Some
of you say the NHL didn’t suspend Cooke, with Marc Savard likely out
for the season with a concussion. Well, the issue here is that the
league currently does not have a rule in place to deem what Cooke did
was illegal. As stupid as that is, it’s the reality of the situation
and  as reprehensible as the hit was the NHL’s hands were tied. Can’t
punish him for a hit that technically wasn’t illegal; the NHLPA would be
all over that one.

Of course, the NHL is trying to correct their
mistake with a proposed rule change but that doesn’t alter the
punishment that Cooke should have received. Now we have talk of player
retribution and the fact that Matt Cooke and other Penguins players
might have a bounty of their heads.

Boy, that sure is a better
alternative.

The punishment should be the same, regardless of
injury.

This is where a standardized punishment system would
work. Everyone knows what the punishment is for such and such hit, and
every subsequent violation results in a lengthier suspension. There is
far too much subjectivity involved to make any punishments feel correct.
The fact that teams are actively lobbying in one way or the other —
and getting their way — is the perfect evidence that the system is
broken.

And for the record, I believe that Ovechkin should be
suspended for his actions. It was a reckless play, not malicious, but
reckless. It was dangerous. I’d say the same thing now if Brian Campbell
had walked away fine from the play. But if Ovechkin is suspended then
Steve Downie should be as well, and the fact that won’t happen is the
exact reason things need to change.