NHL commissioner Gary Bettman vowed this summer that the league would crack down on slashes this upcoming season after a rash of incidents occurred in 2016-17.
On Thursday, George Parros, the newly appointed senior vice-president of the Department of Player Safety, echoed support for that initiative, while stating he wants longer suspensions for players that commit non-hockey infractions, according to a report from NHL.com.
“I’ve always thought that they could have been a bit harsher on certain plays that I felt where clearly someone intended to do something that was away from the play, had nothing to do with the game and no benefit other than to disable or hurt a person,” Parros said. “Just trying to go a little bit harder on those, because I felt it’s been soft in some instances.”
Slashing will be a point of emphasis for the referees this season. It is common, and not every slash will result in supplemental discipline. But Player Safety will address serious incidents and look for patterns with individual players and within the League.
“If they seem to be intentful or directed at the fingers and hands with greater force, we’re going to be looking to do something — fines, suspensions, whatever it might be,” Parros said. “We’re going to try to change player behavior.”
As the report pointed out, slashing is a common occurrence throughout the course of the game and it would be difficult — if not impossible — to find a player that has never delivered a whack to the back of the legs or to the hands and fingers of an opponent.
But there were a number of incidents last season that put the act of slashing under intensified public scrutiny. Sidney Crosby shattered the finger of Marc Methot with a slash to the hand and didn’t receive any supplemental discipline, much to the frustration of the Ottawa Senators. Methot was forced to miss the remainder of the regular season due to the gruesome injury suffered from the incident, but he did return for the first round against the Boston Bruins.
Calgary’s star scorer Johnny Gaudreau missed time earlier in the season due to a finger injury, which, the Flames allege, occurred on a slash from Eric Staal.
“It’s an unfortunate circumstance,” said Flames forward Troy Brouwer at the time. “I know in my game I give a lot of top players good whacks and stuff. You obviously don’t want to let it be happening to your team, but star players are going to be keyed on.
“It’s no different than what we do (to the opposition).”