Well wasn’t that nice of Mike Murphy, wasn’t it?
Now that Colin Campbell has stepped aside, Bettman’s cousin gets to take the reigns as far as discipline goes from now, until Brendan Shanahan takes over at the start of next season. I wonder how warm and fuzzy Shanny feels this morning that Murphy went ahead and doled out a four game punishment to Vancouver’s Aaron Rome for knocking Boston’s Nathan Horton out of the playoffs?
While it would be nice if this 4 game ban was actually the start of some new standard, there’s no indication that Shanahan sees things the same way as Murphy does, or that he plans to pick up where Murphy leaves off. The general assumption (or hope?) is that Shanahan will rip up the book and start anew; beginning a slow and painstaking journey in restoring confidence in the NHL’s disciplinary process by bringing a fresh perspective and approach to how supplementary discipline is handed out. If that’s indeed the case, then Murphy just put Shanahan in a really unenviable spot; fans are perplexed with the Rome suspension – unless of course it’s a new benchmark for blows to the head, in which case I believe most fans will embrace this new standard. But in essence, he has forced Shanahan to follow suit next year by punishing players with at least four game suspensions (though many would argue that four games in the Cup Finals is worth at least twice as many in the regular season) for similar offenses. Anything less, and the usual “same old, same old” refrain will erupt once again. Whatever path Shanahan takes, he would be well served to behave in the opposite of the current guard. That is to say that he must be transparent and open with how he plans to deal with supplemental justice. And for goodness sake, he has to avoid consulting everyone under the sun before reaching a decision.
And what of the hit that has cost Rome the rest of the Cup finals? Opinion on the hit ranges from blaming the victim to villifying the offender. Personally I believe the hit was a tad late, but it was not blindside. The only way it could ever be defined as blindside is because Horton was admiring his pass and wasn’t looking at what was coming in front of him. It’s his responsibility to keep his head up. If Rome doesn’t hit Horton in that situation, he’s out of a job, plain and simple.
As I remarked a couple weeks back, the NHL’s department of hockey ops set the table for themselves as far as criteria goes a couple years ago when they suspended Alex Ovechkin for hitting Brian Campbell from behind. In his statement, Colin Campbell ended his statement with the following:
“If you cause a player to be injured, then you have to be responsible for the play that you’re involved in, if there’s any carelessness or recklessness in it.”
Still, I do agree with the league’s “stance” that if you hurt somebody by being reckless, you should be suspended. We can argue whether or not Rome was reckless in wiping out an opponent who had no idea what was about to happen. The fact is the league saw it that way, and so it’s a closed case. The trouble is that many, many other hits have adhered to these same criteria yet the offending player was not punished. Yeah, the Pacioretty hit is the poster child for the league’s hypocrisy in this instance, and that’s what has many fans, Habs fans in particular so angry and confused. Again.
Using Campbell’s statement above, Chara should have been suspended. He was certainly being reckless, and he obviously caused injury. Yet he skated away scot-free and even received a standing ovation upon his return home to Boston. The issue becomes even more confounding when you take Murphy’s comments on the Rome suspension. Murphy said that the result of the hit, and the lateness of the hit are what compelled Murphy to give Rome four games. How then, did that logic not apply to when Chara hit Pacioretty? Hypocrisy? Stupidity? Favoritism? Double standards? Different rules for stars? Whatever the reason was for not suspending Chara, it was wrong then, and that wrong has been amplified now.
By the same token, again, I have no problem with a suspension for a hit causing injury. It apparently is too much, however, to ask the league to be honest and consistent with their punishments. With vagaries like “we have our own formula at NHL hockey operations for determining late hits”, it’s no wonder that we fans have totally lost faith in the supplemental discipline process. Like any good chef, everyone knows that a formula can be tweaked on a whim, and the league has clearly been a mad scientist in the kitchen. They jerk around with the formula on a case to case basis so that the end result suits their taste. How else can we rationalize the haphazard, inconsistent and bizarre decisions the league has made over the years. Players are confused, and a decline in the quality of officiating indicates that the officials are also unsure of themselves.
The day after the hit that sidelined the Canadiens winger, the organization announced that Pacioretty had suffered a severe concussion and a fractured C4 vertebra in his neck. Bruins fans and media alike thought it was a conspiracy to get Chara suspended through embellishment of the extent of the injury. Yet in the same fashion, the Bruins organization was quick to divulge the severity of Horton’s concussion and that his season was over. They didn’t even wait until the next day; they let Horton’s status be known in the minutes following game 3. I wonder if Bruins fans figured it was another conspiracy to get Rome suspended? Naw, their team wouldn’t be that classless and devious…or whiny and weasly…would it? Of course not…just don’t listen to the trifecta of liars in Ference, Lucic and Coach Julien who want you to believe their words, but ignore their repeated actions.
A short time after being stanchioned, Pacioretty was released from hospital and resumed his recovery; opening a twitter account, and having the audacity of going to a movie theater were just two of the the things he did to fill his suddenly open schedule. Similarly, Horton was released from hospital the very next day after being crushed by Rome. Teammate Milan Lucic soon after admitted that Horton had been texting him. Tweeting. Texting. Tomayto, tomahto. I wonder if Bruins fans have embraced their own “embellished injury” theory yet? Let’s see what happens if Horton is feeling well enough to be in attendance for game 4 in Boston. If he is, I’m guessing he’ll get on the jumbotron, and I’m guessing he’ll get an ovation. Movie theaters. Arenas filled with light and noise. Potayto, potahto. In short, these incidents are so strikingly similar, yet the hypocrisy spouting from Boston now that their guy has been felled is so thick you need a chainsaw to cut through it. If you’re a Bruins fan reading this, and your retort is “well at least we didn’t call 911″, then you have no leg to stand on.
I’m not here to say that the Bruins have embellished. Clearly Horton is hurt. The sight of his crumpled body on the ice is as sickening as seeing Pacioretty laying motionless. What I am drawing attention to is the manner in which the people in Boston reacted in the aftermath of the Pacioretty/Chara incident. Now that they find themselves in a similar situation, hopefully they now see things differently.
As Murphy addressed the media yesterday, he credited his buddy Colin Campbell on numerous occasions for teaching him everything he learned. The same Colin Campbell who was embroiled in an email scandal that revealed extreme bias and in which should have resulted in his immediate termination. The same Colin Campbell who went on TSN Radio earlier this year and confessed to not knowing the rules anymore. The same Colin Campbell with a conflict of interest. The same Colin Campbell that made a mockery of the league for over a decade. If that doesn’t say enough about Mike Murphy’s education, then I don’t know what does. Remember Mel Brooks’ role from Spaceballs? The supreme schmuck President Skroob? Towards the end of the movie as all hell is breaking loose, Skroob turns to one of his minions and says “Sandurz! Help me! I don’t know what to do! I can’t make decisions! I’m a President!” Somehow Spaceballs and the NHL seem to fit hand-in-hand these days. Surrounded by assholes. Major assholes.