First of all, I love Kent’s post on the events that led up to the hit on Daniel Sedin, the hit itself and the result of the hit. Kent did his usually great job of explaining fact and then explaining his own point of view on the events. The NHL Department of Player Safety (DoPS) in its infinite wisdom decided not to suspend Nazem Kadri for his hit on Sedin as they believe that the head was not the initial point of contact therefore a legal hit. Nevermind mind the fact that Sedin’s head took the brunt of the blow, his shoulder had received the butterfly’s breath of contact first and therefore Kadri was home free.
Fans in Vancouver are not surprised by this ruling. Vancouver vs Toronto…..that’s an easy choice for the DoPS. Vancouver is a team that is not filled with saints. Burrows, Hansen, Virtanen and Edler have all been suspended for past offences. And the Sedins are really two players that get no respect from the league for some reason. Maybe it goes back to the Gilles days, when management started playing the conspiracy card while having known troublemakers like Burrows, Kesler and Bieksa. The League has a long memory.
And while the League and the DoPS continue to go about their daily business of handing out “justice”, there is another group of individuals that should be speaking up and letting the NHL know that they are not doing their job. And that group is the owners.
While the League and the teams are separate entities, they are endlessly intertwined. The owners choose the Commissioner to make sure the League is a healthy and growing business. The Commissioner is always supposed to make sure the product on the ice is competitive so that all owners can make profit. And yet the owners continuously let the League do a disservice to the game and hurt the ability of owners to put out a competitive product by not punishing players for dangerous play.
I don’t know about the whole relationship between Bettman and the owners, but I would think that the owners would be more vocal about dangerous plays and the injuries they are causing. The joke this is the department of player safety, has not done its job. In fact, it hasn’t shown any consistency in any of its rulings which has led to confusion on the players and coaches part. At least when there wasn’t a DoPS, there were enforcers and a code that reduced the chance of a hit like we saw on Saturday night. But the owners and the league has gradually pushed fighting out and tried to “police” safety in. The need for an enforcer to make Kadri answer for his hit has been taken away because fighting has been deemed too dangerous for the League’s players. Instead we have guys in a video room measuring inches between a shoulder and a head, and then saying it wasn’t dangerous.
The owners have created this mess. Which when you think about it, is stupid. You want a faster, cleaner game with no fighting, but it has actually created more danger to players with less repercussions because of the technicality of location and perceived intent of a hit. A hit to the shoulder is fine, but the head is not. If it was a follow through to the head….too bad, because it was legal. Everyone who saw the hit may have a different opinion about Kadri’s hit being suspendable, but the simple fact that there is a discussion about his hit on Daniel Sedin shows that the hit itself was dangerous.
Francesco Aquilini has failed the Canuck players, management and their fans when it comes to protecting Canuck players. He isn’t the only one, as all the other NHL team owners continue to let the DoPS hand out or not hand out punishments without any consistency. The perceived favoritism towards some and targeting of others towards others is real due to the bias of those hockey folks hired by the league. And the owners continue to let this happen.
If we look at the DoPS itself, it is run by former players. That would seem to make sense on the surface as they should know the rules but they are also far from unbiased when it comes to determining intent of an action. Former players would be the worse choice for determining danger as they put their own experience into the mix when they look at new incidents. There are no fresh pair of eyes when it comes safety review. The league wants a fast game with physical contact but no direct danger and yet they set up the DoPS to look at how much danger is too much. And the owners agreed to this sham because they either believed this was a viable option to get credibility from the fans and players or the owners are just stupid and didn’t think this through.
Do you know who can stop the DoPS’s wheel of Justice that everyone, not just Canuck fans, but everyone complains about and correct the dangerous play that hurts not only players but the final product on the ice? The owners can. You would think insurance and medical costs would be the first thing a business would look at and say, “Hey, maybe protecting my investment with enforceable rules that are the same for all, might save me some money.” And being able to protect players, leads to a safer league, which might actually bring in more fans who view hockey in a negative way because of the stupidness that happened after the hit on Saturday night. Owners vocally complaining about the lack of player protection is a step in the right direction to creating a better, stronger, safer and more profitable league.
It’s time for Francesco Aquilini and other owners to do so because it’s just good business and the right thing to do.